The father of Ethio-jazz, was born in 1943 in the western Ethiopian city of Jimma. Astatke is first and foremost a composer but also a multi-instrumentalist, playing the vibraphone, keyboards and organs. He is further credited as having established congas and bongos, instruments normally central to Latin styles, in Ethiopian music.
Since his youth, Astatke has worked with many influential jazz artists, most notably Duke Ellington. He is the recipient of several awards, including the Berklee Achievement Award.
As Ethiopian songs traditionally focused on vocals his greatest contribution to the music of his country was introducing a new focus on instrumentation.
Of late, Mulatu Astatke has been the center of renewed attention in the West through a compilation on the Parisian series Ethiopiques and a 10” 4-track compilation on the Soundway label out of Brighton England.
Most notably, a number of his tracks were also featured in director Jim Jarmush’s 2005 independent film Broken Flowers with actors Bill Murray, Sharon Stone and Julie Delpy.
A project to re-record some of Mulatu Astatke’s older work as well as new original material has recently been undertaken in collaboration with Will Holland of Quantic fame, drummer Max Weissenfeldt from Poets Of Rhythm, The, trumpeter Todd Simon, and Showboy from Fela Kuti’s Egypt 80.