Mahmoud Ahmed

Mahmoud Ahmed

Mahmoud Ahmed (born May 8, 1941) (Amharic: መሀሙድ አህመድ) is an Ethiopian singer of Gurage ancestry. He gained great popularity in Ethiopia in the 1970s and among the Ethiopian diaspora in the 1980s before rising to international fame with African music fans in Europe and the Americas.


Born in Addis Ababa's Mercato district, Mahmoud was enthralled with the music he heard on Ethiopian radio from in early age. Having done poorly at school, he shined shoes before becoming a handyman at the Arizona Club, which was the after hours hangout of Emperor Haile Selassie I's Imperial Body Guard Band. One night in 1962 when the band's singer didn't show up, Mahmoud asked to sing a few songs. He soon became part of the band's regular lineup, where he remained until 1974.

After cutting his first single with Venus Band "Nafqot New Yegodagn"/"Yasdestal" in 1971, Mahmoud continued to record with several bands for the Amha and Kaifa record labels throughout the 1970s. The overthrow of Emperor Sellassie and the suspension of musical nightlife under the military government created shifts in the Ethiopian music industry—the Imperial Body Guard Band were no more, and Mahmoud continued to make hit records and cassettes with many musicians who remained in the country, including the Dahlack Band, the Ibex Band and the Idan Raichel Project. He also began to release solo cassettes, accompanying himself on the krar, guitar or mandolin.

By 1978, censorship laws prevented Mahmoud from releasing his music on vinyl and so he switched to releasing cassettes. In the 1980s Mahmoud operated his own music store in Addis Ababa's Piazza district while continuing his singing career. With many Ethiopian refugees living abroad, Mahmoud became one of the first modern Ethiopian music makers to perform in the United States on a 1980-81 tour with the Wallias Band, Gétatchew Kassa, and Webeshed Fisseha. Mahmoud soon began releasing records with the Roha Band and became popular in diaspora communities.

In 1986, Mahmoud's music reached a larger western audience when the Belgian label Crammed Discs released the collection Ere Mela Mela drawn from two Kaifa LPs Mahmoud had recorded in Addis with the Ibex Band a decade earlier. Ethiopia was making headlines in the west because of political repression and famine, and the contrasting tone of Mahmoud 's first international release received much acclaim in the burgeoning world music community. Mahmoud gained even greater international popularity in the late 1990s after Buda Musique launched the Éthiopiques series on compact disc. This led to new recordings and tours in Europe and the United States with Boston's Either/Orchestra and Badume's Band. He continues to tour internationally, performing concerts both for world music fans as well as the Ethiopian diaspora.

In 2007, Mahmoud won a BBC World Music Award.

Selected discography

  •     Almaz with Ibex Band (1973 LP; reissued on CD in 1999 as Éthiopiques Volume 6, Buda Musique 829792)
  •     Alèmyé (1974 LP, reissued on CD in 2005 as Éthiopiques Volume 19, Buda Musique 860106)
  •     Erè Mèla Mèla (1975 LP, rereleased on Crammed Discs in 1986 with extra tracks, remixed, expanded and reissued on CD in 2000 as Etiopiques Volume 7, Buda Musique 829802)
  •     Soul of Addis (1997, Earthworks/Stern's Africa STEW35CD)
  •     Slow Collections (1998, Sounds of Abyssinia SAC-022)
  •     Live In Paris (1998, Long Distance 302671)
  •     Yitbarek (2003, Yene Production 77414, rereleased by Nahom Records in 2007)
  •     Tizita Vol. 1 (The Best of...) (2003, AIT Records AIT-10304)
  •     Tizita Vol. 2 (The Best of...) (2003, AIT Records AIT-10305)
  •     Ethiogroove: Mahmoud Ahmed & Either/Orchestra (2007, EthioSonic DVD)
  •     Éthiopiques Live: Mahmoud Ahmed, Alemayehu Eshete & Badume's Band (2009, Innacor DVD)
  •     Éthiopiques 26: Mahmoud Ahmed & Imperial Bodyguard Band, 1972-1974 (collects music from singles released on the Philips label)


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Mahmoud Ahmed


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