Prodigy Ethiopian pianist debuts material with Society of Sound

Samuel Yirga (Photography: York Tillyer)

Samuel Yirga is a young pianist from Addis Ababa, introduced to Real World and Bowers & Wilkins’ Society of Sound through his involvement with the band Dub Colossus. He has only been playing piano for a little over 5 years, but at the the age of 25 he has developed into a prodigy in Ethiojazz.

In the studio at Real World while recording the first Dub Colossus album, the dreadlocked Samuel looks up from the piano he has been playing without a break for the past couple of hours. Just before making the trip to England (his first ever journey outside of Ethiopia), a friend found him a piano, the first he has ever owned:

“Most musicians don’t have any instruments, so to be here is amazing.”

He plays one night a week in Addis’s only jazz club/coffee bar, where the way he mixes Keith Jarrett and Herbie Hancock with Ethiojazz has won him a cult following already, despite the fact he only finished music school at the start of 2008. “I take traditional music and turn it around, and people in Ethiopia are starting to listen to the way it swings now. Our musical culture is under attack from inside and out, it’s all rock bands, hip-hop groups and pop singers, and nobody can afford to run a big band. ”

Since that first trip Samuel has been touring internationally with Dub Colossus. He has recently finished recording his debut solo album for Real World Records for release in 2011.

A specially selected set of exclusive tracks  will be available through the Society of Sound in April.

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