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The Young Ethio Jazz Band, performing at Rasela's Jazz Club on Sunday.

The Young Ethio Jazz Band, ages 10 to 15, bring back traditional Ethiopian jazz

on January 9, 2013

Sirak Tegbaru leads young members of Oakland’s Medhani Alem Ethiopian Orthodox Church in an unusual extracurricular activity: a traditional Ethiopian jazz band. The young musicians, ranging in age from 10 to 15, had their first performance on Sunday, at Rasela’s Jazz Club in San Francisco’s Fillmore district. They call themselves the Young Ethio Jazz Band.

The students play Ethio-jazz, a style that blends American jazz and Latin rhythms with traditional Ethiopian sounds. Led by figures like Mulatu Astatke, Ethio-jazz flowered during the 1960s and early ’70s.

The eight person band played several covers at Rasela’s, with many members taking solos on each song. Most Ethiopian music hasn’t been written down, so Tegbaru has to study each song carefully, learning the keyboard, horn, bass, and drum parts so that he can teach them to his band. After seven months of practices, they were ready for their first performance this January.

Yonathan Estfanos, who plays trumpet, describes the Young Ethio Jazz Band’s sound as “unique and mellow and lively. And nothing like anything people have ever heard of, especially people of this generation.” Like many of the band members, Estfanos says the band has allowed him to preserve his cultural heritage. “I feel like I’m going back to my culture, you know? I feel like I’m going back to my roots,” he said.

To get more information about the Young Ethio Jazz Band, contact Tegbaru directly at youngethiojazzband [at] gmail [dot] com.

Check out other audio and video profiles of local musicians on our Bandwidth page.

Correction: the story identifies the vocalist as Jacob Tegbaru. In fact, the singer is Simon Yacob.


  1. getahun on January 9, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    Young ethio jazz band

    • Simon on January 11, 2013 at 3:19 pm

      Thank you Aaron,for posting

      From,Kebordist Simon Yacob

    • Simon on January 11, 2013 at 3:20 pm

      Thank you Aaron,for posting this on your website

      From,Kebordist Simon Yacob

  2. Mahlet on January 10, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    Today, after seeing such talents and learning of the efforts that was put in them,I am left inspired to do more and better. I was telling a friend this: that I hear the heavens when my three year old sings. I am going to listen and cultivate her gifts for the prospects of the coming 10+ years.Thank you for sharing. I appreciate you.

  3. Emaelaf on January 10, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    Yea we’re a few years behind, but that will make it THAT much sweeter when history is made all while breaking that crutch for ourselves as well as future generations in the process. These kid’s trying to open the door for the next generation. Well guess what … The door’s cracked and is getting wider, and it’s our job to walk through. I don’t think that I can say enough about these group’s …

  4. Christian Tesfaye on January 11, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    Although there were some name errors, this was a beautiful interview and shows how “pop culture” hasn’t dominated us young musicians, it shows how diverse our world is.

    • Christian Tesfaye on January 11, 2013 at 8:14 pm

      -Christian the drummer for the band

  5. The Young Ethio Jazz Band « Addis Journal on January 13, 2013 at 6:46 am

    […] ranging in age from 10 to 15, are playing Ethio-jazz and getting some media coverage like this one. Sirak Tegbaru leads young members of Oakland’s Medhani Alem Ethiopian Orthodox Church in an […]

  6. The Swinging Bass on January 31, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    a great sound and a lot of talent

    • Paperchain wedding stationery on March 13, 2013 at 2:33 am

      Certainly is a good sound. Andy, they wouldn’t be out of place at one of the weddings that you perform at

  7. Amare Tegr on March 31, 2013 at 6:28 am

    This is incrediblyi innovative. It is indeed a monumental masterpiece that stands alone without comparison as a genuine brand of my brother. Congratulations. Amare

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