Fantahun Shewankochew is a Toronto-based musician (vocalist, song writer, instrumentalist, arranger and composer). His new release Adera (An Undertaking) is a rediscovery of Ethio-jazz, traditional and popular Ethiopian music with a modern twist. Fantahun Shewankochew has crafted an album that harkens back to the golden era of Ethiopian music.
Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Fantahun hails from a country with a diverse mix of rich culture, tradition and music. Affectionately called “Fantish” by his friends and fans, Fantahun discovered his talent for music at a very young age when he participated in school performances as a singer, often imitating famous Ethiopian vocalists like Muluken Melese and his idol the late Tilahun Gessesse, undoubtedly the most revered and iconic figure who dominated Ethiopia’s modern music for almost half-a-century. To develop his talent, Fantahun joined the Yared School of Music in Addis Ababa, where he studied for four years and graduated in the early 80’s with a diploma in trumpet and the Ethiopian traditional instrument called krar, a harp-like five-or six-string lyre played using the fingers or in combination with a pick. His stint in the school not only provided him with the necessary academic credential and a better understanding of what underlies his music, but also created the historic opportunity of producing the Amharic hit song “Kiraren Biqagnew”, his signature song that introduced him to the public. Fresh from school, he was hired by the renowned Ethiopian National Theatre as a trumpet player and worked as a vocalist on the side with the Mahiran Band that he co-founded.
Fantahun Shewankochew - Yeberetuma
He released his first album - Kiraren in 1986 with the Mahiran band. He released three more albums: “Min Yelelesh Ale”, “Shegnichesh Semeles”, and “BeYikirta”. Besides his artistic and administrative responsibilities at the Ethiopian National theatre where he worked for over 20 years in various capacities including Coordinator of the music department, Fantahun formed one more music band –the Medina Band, collaborated with famous musicians and also went on international music tours in Africa, North America, South America, Europe, China and the Middle East.
Fantahun Shewankochew - Kiraren Bikagnew
While in tour in Paris, France, Fantahun collaborated with the famous and now US-based Ejigayehu Shibabaw, a.k.a. Gigi., and released the “Ethiopian Love Songs” album. His tour with a group of musicians that included four German instrumentalists (Jochen Engel, Patrick Langer, Jörg Pfeil and Michael Ehret) and four Ethiopian vocalists (Abonesh Adnew, Tigist Bekele, Wondwossen Kassa and Binyam Kindya), organized under a band called “Sounds of Saba” offered Fantahun the opportunity to fulfill his dream of introducing Ethiopian music to the rest of the world and also to participate in the group’s 1998 “Tizita” album in which he participated as a vocalist, kirar player and percussionist. Representing Ethiopia with the Cultural Orchestra of the ENT, Fantahun has participated at some of the biggest international musical events including the Ravera festival in Italy and the Houston International festival in Texas, USA.
Fantahun made Toronto his new home in 2011 and he has since collaborated with fellow Ethiopian and other Canadian musicians and performed at such venues as the Glenn Gould Studio, Lula Lounge, Harbourfront Centre, the Music Gallery, the Gladstone Hotel and the Luminato Festival. No less important is his contribution to the Ethiopian Community in Toronto. In the same year he arrived in Toronto, for example, he got himself busy serving as artistic director of a spiritual concert & drama organized by fellow artists in collaboration with the choir of the Toronto Membere Birhan Saint Mary Ethiopian Orthodox Cathedral to raise fund for the construction of the Church’s new cathedral. The show was a complete sell-out and a phenomenal success.
Regarding his plans in music, Fantahun has a keen interest to introduce Ethiopian traditional music, which he says has gained more and more popularity in many European countries but not so much here in Canada. In addition to his many personal projects in the pipeline, he plans to introduce to Canadians Ethiopia’s distinct modal system that is pentatonic called qenet, of which there are four main modes: tezeta, bati, ambassel, and anchihoye and other additional modes which are basically variants of the four modes.
Fantahun Shewankochew - 01 - Shegneches Semeles (5:15)
Fantahun Shewankochew - 02 - Zelalemaw neshe (4:33)
Fantahun Shewankochew - 03 - Abete setawekebet (4:51)
Fantahun Shewankochew - 04 - Ezawe betebelesh (4:20)
Fantahun Shewankochew - 05 - Legenet abeba (5:27)
Fantahun Shewankochew - 06 - Menezewa kezeba (4:23)
Fantahun Shewankochew - 07 - Menoeren senoru (5:28)
Fantahun Shewankochew - 08 - Yedemek cewatachen (5:26)
Fantahun Shewankochew - 09 - Yedemekelesh cewatachen (5:34)
Fantahun Shewankochew - 10 - Yeete new (5:31)
Fantahun Shewankochew - 11 - Yefa enawetaw (4:50)