As a sound of the past, present and future; jazz has evolved and grown over decades with newer generations experiment with the sound, looking to put their mark in the genre. Up and coming artists like Yizzac Kasahun, composer and band leader of the Yizzac experience, seek to do just that with a contemporary take on jazz and classical music composition that is truly unique to him and his band.
The artists, who shy away from mainstream music and its glamorized re-fabrication of previously existing sounds, compose music through a self-thought expressive manner. The self-thought composer started his music journey when he first heard Girum Yefrashewa playing Beethoven’s symphony as a 10 year old.
“I remember when I first heard Beethoven’s symphony, wondering who thought of those notes in that order. Ever since then, I have been entranced by the magical power of music and how it moves and inspires with just sound,” said Yizzac, recalling his first encounter with the craft.
“I did not have access to any musical instruments at that time, so, I would just listen and get inspired. Eventually, I had a chance to play at Korea hospital for the first time. They had a piano in the chapel and the minute I sat and played the keys, I felt right at home,” added Yizzac.
Up and coming independent artists and musicians like Yizzac, who gravitate towards genres that aren’t considered mainstream, are left to deal with spectators who do not give their work the necessary attention or appreciation.
“In order to get recognition as a composer in Ethiopia, you need validation by western Media. Unless you’ve been praised by western media, your work is trivialized,” said Yizzac, while talking about songs most Ethiopians know by heart and how credit isn’t given to the composers.
In a society where musical pursuits are looked down-on and not supported by educational institutions, it was not an easy task for music enthusiasts like Yizzac to learn and pursue a career in music.
Understanding how underappreciated and underrated local composers were, Yizzac set out to make his mark in the industry, forming his band well into his 20s. Taking inspiration from those that came before him, as well as taking influence from traditional music from across the globe, he set on a journey to find his sound.
As a genre recognized by the UNESCO, which promotes peace and togetherness, it was only fitting to let artists bloom on International Jazz Day, on April 30, 2022.
Proclaimed by UNESCO as an International Jazz Day, it raises awareness in the international community of the virtues of jazz as a force for peace, unity, dialogue and enhanced cooperation among people, as well as an educational tool.
Many governments, civil society organizations, educational institutions, and private citizens currently engaged in the promotion of jazz music, embrace the opportunity to foster greater appreciation, not only for the music, but also for the contribution it can make to build a more inclusive society.
International jazz superstars like Mulatu Astatke commemorated the date by putting on a performance and announcing his plans to create a link between Ethio-jazz, which already has touches of Afro-funk, Soul, and Latin rhythms, and a Turkish fusion sound. Newer generation musicians Like Yizzac pay tribute by fusing genres to create an evolved and palatable expression of their Artistic voices, letting the genre further evolve and come into its own in the modern music scene.
“We take inspiration from Bati, ambasel, classical music, jazz and so much more. To us, jazz is a genre where freedom is embodied, where we get to play off of each other. I believe that blues and Bati are the bases to the jazz sound. I believe that jazz is evolving in Ethiopia as a whole, bands like Jazzabysina, Wudase band, and Admas band are all putting their own twists on the genre,” he told The Reporter, explaining how Ethiopian jazz is not jazz as the world knows it, but has a tinge of Bati, ambasel and other Ethiopian sounds that make it unique and palatable to many.
After having performed as a live band for over a year now at the Metro Hyatt Regency hotel the band is collecting their original compositions to make a classical jazz album that can be available to the public in a couple of months.
“As hard as it is to be a composer and a classical music artist in Ethiopia, here we all are. One does not need to be a chef to know and understand the flavors of food, and I think the same applies here. One does not need to be a musician to enjoy beautifully composed music,” Yizzac concluded.