Mahmoud Ahmed is an Ethiopian singer and songwriter whose music has helped to shape both contemporary popular Ethiopian and international music. Born in 1941 in the capital city of Addis Ababa, Ahmed was preceded by three generations of musicians in his family. By the time he finished school, he had already decided music would be his lifeâ€™s passion and profession.
Ahmed played professionally with a local band, performing at Alga bar and the Imperial Hotel in Addis Ababa, though he remained mostly unknown to the Ethiopians since his music was at the time still heavily influenced by Egyptian rhythms and could be heard mainly on the audios imported records. He cultivated a similar style over the rest of the 60s and the early 70s though it was his 1977 album "Ere Mela Mela" that truly set the tone and gained recognition in Ethiopia both through music and television, as the song became the theme of the national television Mid Rim Tsehay (Good Morning) show.
In 1978, Ahmedâ€™s career catapulted into prominence as the composer Getatchew's Maraki released the album "Ã‰thiopiques vol 4: Ethio Jazz & Musique Instrumentale 1966-1974". The Ethiopian jazz influence was a massive voice for the genre and part of Ahmed successful equation â€“ his ability to mix traditional Ethiopian music with global Jazz rhythms. As Ahmed craft took many turns and divergences, leading him to adopt innovative sounds from other countries like Mali, Ghana, Egypt, and Brazil into his diverse repertoire of rumba and bazuka songs that carefully illustrated the flavours that make up contemporary Ethiopian music to this day.
Ahmed fame spread swiftly across the globe, due in no small part to Western musicians incorporating music from the Ã‰thiopiques series into their own production. This integration onto the world stage exposed Ahmed and Ethiopia to a broad international audience, with Uganda, France, England, Kuwait, the U.S., Mexico, Morocco, Japan, India, Jordan and Canada, amongst many other countries, experiencing his talent. Moreover, it was in 1990 at the International Jazz Festival in Montreaux where Ahmed became acknowledged in a most distinguished way for his unique art.
He continued in this vein; producing new styles and opportunities with his albums Kosta Kule, Shemonte, Biye, Jegchaw, Segaa Nanniyee, Tezeta, Sidematew, Mekenie Bel and Aram. He has done, similarly to Mercury Stellar or Alpha Blondie, collaborated with well-known musicians from different genres and countries, which gave him numerous awards at different international music festivals.
Throughout the span of his career, Ahmed music sang social and political songs with evocative charm that bridgsm to key humanist issues such as economic and social justice. This, in turn, has transformed Ahmedâ€™s genre of success as a top Ethiopian musician to that of a storyteller at the forefont of alternative Ethiopian music.
In short, this is why Mahmoud Ahmedâ€”now in his 79th yearâ€”is a legend at Ethiopiaâ€™s heart and one of its cultural heroes, having had some of his most acclaimed albums re-released as an international deluxe edition seven decades into his career. His name and influence have grown in regards to East African music, and rightfully, Ahmed is still warmly receiving invitations to perform in world-wide Festivals such as Kafa Tchela and Carifesta of Venezuela, where audiences stand enraptured by his resonant plaudits that echo back through time after every encore.