531 North 12th St.
Philadelphia, PA, 19123
Doors 7:30 PM / Show 8:00 PM (event ends at 10:30 PM)
This event is all ages
Fendika, a troupe of the most accomplished azmari musicians and dancers from Addis Ababa, draws deeply from the well of Ethiopia’s bardic tradition while adding creative movements and sounds that revitalize their ancient artistic forms. Passionately committed to the preservation and development of traditional culture, Fendika features seven performers – two dancers, two singers, and instruments including kebero drums, masenko (a one-stringed bowed fiddle), and krar (a five- or six-stringed lyre). Founded in 2009 by Melaku Belay, Ethiopia’s leading dancer and a respected cultural ambassador, the ensemble is based at Melaku’s renowned music club Fendika Azmari Bet in the Kazanchis neighborhood of Addis Ababa. In Ethiopian culture, an azmari bet is a traditional house of music where people come to be entertained, informed, and sometimes playfully insulted by the azmari who serve as current events commentators while they dance, sing, and play for tips.
Melaku is a virtuoso interpreter of eskista, a traditional Ethiopian trance dance of athletic shoulder movements that presage hip hop movements of breaking and popping. Now a renowned cultural ambassador and the founding president of the Ethiopian Dance Association (est. 2018), Melaku grew up as a street kid, learning many regional dances of Ethiopia through participation in religious festivals such as Timqat, folk ceremonies, and everyday activities in Addis Ababa and the countryside where music and dance are a vital part of cultural and spiritual expression. Melaku has traveled throughout Ethiopia to learn the dance traditions of the country’s 80 tribal groups. He has also brought dancers and musicians from remote rural areas to Addis Ababa to showcase their work. The musicians and dancers of Fendika present a cultural journey starting in the highlands of Tigray, Wollo, Gonder, and Gojam, also including dances from the Somali and Afar regions and southern Ethiopian dance forms from the Gurage, Wolaita, and Konso traditions.
In 2011 Melaku won the Alliance Ethio-Francaise (Addis Ababa) award for dance excellence. In 2015 he was named as a Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, in recognition of his exceptional artistic career, by the French Ministry of Culture and Communications - an extremely prestigious honor. In 2016, Melaku was nominated, along Mulatu Astadke and Samuel Yirga, for the nationwide DireTube Award for introducing Ethiopian music to the world. In 2017, Melaku received a globally competitive grant from UNESCO’s International Fund for the Promotion of Culture, to produce an azmari music festival in Addis Ababa.