Artist, Laureate, Dr. Mulatu Astatkie, 2017 Bikila Lifetime Achievement Award winner
Ethiopian musician (piano, organ, vibraphone, and percussion), composer, and arranger Mulatu Astatke is a household name in his native country, where he is known as the father of Ethio-jazz, a unique blend of pop, modern jazz, traditional Ethiopian music, Latin rhythms, Caribbean reggae, and Afro-funk.
Born in 1943 in the West Ethiopia city of Jimma, Mulatu studied music in London, New York City, and Boston, where he was the first African graduate of the Berklee College of Music, and went on to work with several acclaimed jazz artists, including a guest spot with Duke Ellington in 1971.
Mulatu’s work brought a renewed focus on instrumentation and rhythm to Ethiopian pop music, shepherding in a golden age in that country’s pop and jazz circles from 1968 to 1974. Mulatu also collaborated with the London-based psyche-jazz configuration the Heliocentrics in 2008 on the album Inspiration Information, Vol. 3, which included updated versions of many of his classic compositions.
He also contributed to the soundtrack for Jim Jarmusch’s 2005 film Broken Flowers, which brought him a whole lot of new fans outside of Ethiopia.
In 2008, Mulatu completed a Radcliffe Institute Fellowship at Harvard University, where he worked on modernization of traditional Ethiopian instruments and premiered a portion of a new opera, The Yared Opera. Mulatu also served as an Abramowitz Artist-in-Residence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, delivering lectures and workshops, as well as advising MIT’s Media Lab on creating a modern version of the Krar, a traditional Ethiopian instrument.
On 1 February 2009, Mulatu Astatke performed at the Luckman Auditorium in Los Angeles with a band that included such notable jazz musicians as Bennie Maupin, Azar Lawrence, and Phil Ranelin. He also released a two-disc set to be sold exclusively to passengers of Ethiopian Airlines, with the first disc being a compilation of the different styles from different regions of Ethiopia and the second being studio originals.
On 12 May 2012, Mulatu received an honorary doctor of music degree from the Berklee College of Music.
In 2015 Astatke began recording with long-time collaborators Black Jesus Experience for what would become the album Cradle of Humanity, premiered at the Melbourne Jazz Festival in 2016 and was followed by a tour of Australia and New Zealand.
Artist Mulatu has established Wal Africa Jazz Village Club to teach and mentor the young generation with modern and traditional music. Through this project Artist Mulatu is endeavoring young musical talents of Africans to come together and touch, play and influence the world with deep and rich African music. Most recently Artist Mulatu Astatke has achieved a Laureate title for his lifelong remarkable accomplishments in music.
Bikila Award is honoured and congratulates Artist Laureate Dr. Mulatu Astatke for being selected as the 2017 Bikila Lifetime Achievement Award winner for his distinguished and enduring contributions to Ethiopian jazz and as music composer and arranger on international stages.