Artist Profiles: Seleshe Damessae

Seleshe Damessae (also known as Sileshi Demissie and Gashe Abera Molla) is an extraordinary singer and musician from Ethiopia. He uses a complex vocal styling, sung in Amharic, his native language. He accompanies himself on the krar, a 6-string lyre which dates back to the ancient civilizations of the Nile.

Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Seleshe Damessae began studying the krar at an early age with his father, and later attended the Yared School of Music. He spent nearly four years studying traditional Ethiopian culture in northern rural areas, and today is highly respected for his knowledge of the vocal and instrumental music of his native land.

Seleshe is also a skilled instrument maker who builds and plays a variety of folk instruments such as krars, fiddles, harps and drums. He has performed throughout the United States, Europe and Africa.

Seleshe Damessae founded the Gashe Abera Molla Association, upon returning to Addis Ababa after 20 years as a successful singer in the United States and decided to address the social and environmental problems that plagued his home city. He set up the new organization and named it after a character in his songs – Gashe Abera, the old man who takes care of his local community.

Discography:

Tesfaye: a future hope (Music of the World MOW 107, 1987)
Songs from Ethiopia today (Wergo/Haus der Kulturen der Welt SM1516-2, 1993)
Sorene: Children’s Songs from Ethiopia (1999)
Yamiral Hagere (2013)

Credits

Photo by Lorraine Tipaldi

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.

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