Melaku Belay, an Ethiopian dancer/choreographer, is the founding director of Fendika Cultural Center. At an early age, he immersed himself in the rich tapestry of regional dances and music. He honed his skills and developed a unique style of performance grounded in Ethiopia’s diverse dance traditions. With his mesmerizing mastery of Eskista, a traditional Ethiopian dance, Melaku has earned nicknames like the “walking earthquake” and the “King of Eskista.” 

In 2016, Melaku founded Fendika Cultural Center to create a premier cultural hub that celebrates artists from various disciplines and cultural backgrounds. Fendika has become a sanctuary for Ethiopian indigenous arts, particularly the Azmari music tradition. Melaku revolutionized the Azmari bet custom by being the first to pay Azmari musicians regular salaries, providing them with much-needed support. Melaku’s work at Fendika has brought global attention to Ethiopia’s indigenous arts. The centre has hosted Azmari performances, curated visual art exhibits, and facilitated monthly poetry readings and scholarly presentations. Melaku also leads two traditional performing groups, Fendika and Ethiocolor, showcasing the immense musical heritage of Ethiopia with creativity and innovation. Despite facing challenges, including the threat of government takeover and lack of support for indigenous art forms, Melaku remains dedicated to his vision. He tirelessly works to keep Fendika alive and thriving, believing in the power of arts to promote peace and healing. Eden Teshome sat down with the world-renowned Ethiopian dancer for an EBR exclusive. 


 A Thriving Scene for Music Enthusiasts, Night Owls Alike

Addis has a vibrant scene of culture in recent years; Jazz Nights have become a popular trend among the youth in the city, offering a unique experience for music lovers and night owls alike. With live jazz music performances in bars and clubs across the city, Addis Ababa offers a unique experience; from the famous Jazzamba Lounge to the Fendika Cultural Center, locals and tourists alike can enjoy the electric atmosphere and the sound of trumpets, saxophones, and drums filling the air. In this article, EBR’s Bamlak Fikadu discusses the growing popularity of live jazz music in Addis Ababa.             


The Human Hair Wig Business Grows Despite the Ban

Human hair has traditionally been utilised for weddings or on women with short or thin hair who don’t have beautiful hair. But now that human hair is fashionable, even women with long and thick hair are wearing human hair to alter their looks. In recent years, human hair wigs have grown in popularity, giving women a stunning appearance. Human hair wigs have become one of the most popular beauty and makeover choices in Addis Ababa and other major towns. In this article, EBR’s Hemen Asmare tells a story of how the human hair business is still growing despite the government’s ban on its import.  


The traditional tattoo (Nikisat) has a long history in Ethiopia. Legends have it Ethiopians started tattooing with the introduction of Christianity millennial ago. Traditional tattoo (Nikisat) is one of the ways women in Ethiopia express their beauty, especially in Gondar, Gojjam and Tigray. Mothers and young women look beautiful by tattooing different designs on their necks, foreheads, gum and hands. Even though the old tradition of inking bodies is fading, a contemporary tattoo practice is on the rise as a culture and a business, mainly in the capital, writes EBR’s Hemen Asmare.


Ethiopians have had a difficult time in recent years. In a nation where the news is full of war, conflict, displacement, and economic challenges, just making it through the day might be the wisest choice. People do that, especially in the capital, Addis Ababa. Going to theaters, movies, and other festivals might temporarily relieve stress. A new addition to the list is the growing trend of standup shows. Even though it has not yet reached its full potential, standup comedy is indeed helping urbanites ease their economic pain. In this article, EBR’s Hemen Asmare shares insights she gathered talking to a young man who started a center in hopes of supporting the growth of standup comedy, and the role it may have in society.   


A decade or two ago, it would have been hard to imagine the numerous pastry shops Addis Ababa has now. As the nation’s economy grows and household income goes up, people’s needs are changing as well. In the past few years, bakeries that used to offer just a loaf of bread are transforming into pastry shops, selling cakes in all shapes and sizes. Along with this slowly growing business, we’ve seen the emergence of the art of cake decorating. In this article, EBR’s Tirualem Asmare looks into the growing, creative art of cake decorating.


The popularity of book-to-film adaptations is rising. Popular books are frequently adapted into movies and television shows because studios want to capitalise on a successful idea that already has a following, bringing it to a larger audience. Georges Melies, a pioneer who paved the path for numerous film methods, is credited with creating the first known footage of a book-to-film adaptation. In 1899, he produced two adaptations: Cinderella, based on the Brothers Grimm tale, and King John, the first film known to be based on Shakespeare. His other work is based on the English author H. Rider Haggard’s adventure tale, Her. The practice is also being adapted into Ethiopian cinema, writes EBR’s Trualem Asmare.


String art is the process of creating geometric designs by weaving colorful string, wool, wire, or yarn between hammered nails. Thread lines are used by artists to produce carving patterns that can take on a variety of appealing shapes. Using thread and nails to create angles was an organic notion that evolved into a unique style of art. Not long ago, it was not well understood in Addis Ababa. Since recently, however, this form of art is making its way to luxurious residences and taking center stage at art exhibitions, writes EBR’s Trualem Asmare.


Ethiopia has long been home to musical artists with immeasurable social impact, from the traditional azmari who had the unique permission to critique members of the nobility with carefully crafted lyrics in times past to modern-day musicians who have fought against government censorship and oppression to keep the show going. Unfortunately, the artists have reaped less than what they deserve from their hard work due to the laxness around copyright laws and a lack of a proper system for distributing royalty payments. EBR’s Tirualem Asmare explores how the launch of a new music streaming platform has the potential for meaningful change.


Dibekulu, affectionately known by his fans as “Dibe”, is an Ethiopian artist who resides in the vibrant capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. His melodic style, which is simultaneously playful and reflective, is influenced by his love of jazz, classical music, and improvised instrumental music stemming from his African roots. His passion for music was ignited by legendary Ethiopian artists such as Ketema Mekonnen, Tilahun Gessesse, Girma Beyene, Muluken Melesse, Aster Aweke, Asnakech Worku, and Bizunesh Bekele, who to this day serve as his role models and inspirations. In his own words, DibeKulu says: “These artists have had a huge impact on me both as a musician and human being, and I give them credit for having an influence on who I am as a person and musician”.

DibeKulu, the youngest of three children, was born in the city of Addis. His family is his compass and he attributes much of his musical passion to them. His grandfather, a strong man of faith, was a strong presence in his life, and gave him the name “DibeKulu”, which is a combination of two Ge’ez words meaning “Kehulu Belay” which loosely translates to “destined for greatness”. Early on, he recognized that he was born to be a musician who was put on earth to inspire generations with his gift of music.
DibeKulu started performing in the early 2000s in various nightclubs and other settings around Addis Ababa. A young and gifted artist like DibeKulu had plenty of options world ushered in a new millennium and a new decade.

Owing to his impressive live performances, DibeKulu gained prominence in the modern Ethiopian music scene. As a musician, he embodies the essence of African music, exhibiting a young man with an old soul. During his time with Jano Band, DibeKulu performed concerts in Addis Ababa, Arba Minch, Bahir Dar, Dessie, Jimma, and Mekelle cities. Internationally, he performed in Brazil, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, the United States, and the United Kingdom. As the young artist departed his former band and went solo, Haben Woldu sat down with him for an EBR exclusive.

Ethiopian Business Review | EBR is a first-class and high-quality monthly business magazine offering enlightenment to readers and a platform for partners.

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