Ethiopia, the birthplace of a number of antiquity’s great civilizations, has a long history of political autonomy. Throughout the colonial era it remained the only African country to successfully resist European imperialism. Possessed of a rich and varied culture, Ethiopia’s venerable tradition of classical poetry, bardic music, and astonishing polyphonies directly influenced the contemporary music boom from the end of World War II until the mid ’70’s.

Fueled by outrage over Italy’s brief occupation of the country under Mussolini, post-war Ethiopia saw a surge of cultural pride and production. Large bands formed under military and cultural institutions which launched the careers of such prodigious talents as Alemayehu Eshete and Hirut Bekele. Under Emperor Haile Selaissie, of Rastafari fame, capitol city Addis Ababa became one of the world’s most innovative musical centers, from which an astonishing number of top notch records were released in a relatively short period of time. While elements of Western and Arab music are present in the styles which made up the contemporary Ethiopian Golden Age, they drew primarily from traditional music, evident in the use of the pentatonic scale and the repurposing of Abyssinian rhythms. Unfortunately, this musical renaissance was abruptly ended with a governmental overthrow by a Soviet-backed military junta called the Derg, which imposed strict regulations on the movement and lives of its citizens and forced the exile of star performers like Aster Aweke.