Elias Melka, the legendary songwriter, guitarist and composer of some of the most popular Ethiopian Musicians such as Tewodros Kasahun a.k.a. Teddy Afro, Zeritu Kebede, Michael Belayneh, Gossaye Tesfaye, Aster Aweke and Eyob Mekonen; and a major player in the music industry of the country in the past two decades and composer of more than three dozen albums passed away last weekend.
The 42-year-old legendary artist struggled with diabetes and kidney complications and they were believed to have taken a toll on him, finally. He was last seen on FanaLamrot talent show on Fana TV mere days before his death and his sickness was visible and looked frail.
Elias started with the Medina band at a young age, becoming a noted guitarist while still a student at Yared Music School. He majored in cello, however, his self-taught guitar skills was what made him stand out from his colleagues, managing to create the sounds of his generation.
In 1993, he started 3M band, which became the backup band for some of the legendary albums of Mahamud Ahmed. Eventually, he would open his own studio called Begena Studio, where Teddy Afro’s first CD, Abugida was recorded.
For Aster Aweke, he produced her 2011 CD, Cheheho, her self-described “electrifying album” and he eventually teamed up with the legend herself to produce her eventual albums, along with Abegaz, who has been her long-time producer.
His tributes were swift and included his fans, government officials, including the Mayor of Addis Ababa and his colleagues from the musical world.
“Saddened to learn the passing of renowned lyricist and composer, Elias Melka,” Takele Uma, deputy mayor of Addis Ababa, said through his twitter account and later attended his memorial at National Theatre. “We lost a talented and influential figure in the music industry,” Takele said further.
In between his artistic work, he along with Daniel Kendie, Henock Mehari and his siblings, briefly focused on religious music before eventually getting back to producing popular production, at his studio.
His long time friend and colleague Gosaye Tesfaye told The Reporter that it is a big loss for all who knew him personally and to his fans. However, he believes his legacy and musical creativity are eternal.
“Since there are many people he has managed to influence, his is something that shall not be forgotten”, he said. “I mate him almost two decades ago, when he first worked on my album and I was taken aback by his professionalism and patiece. He was a kind hearted person that I will always honor”.
As a tribute, Gossaye asked that something important be named in his honor.
“Maybe a school or a musical department, his name should be there and it should be celebrated”, he added. “We should at the very least try to dedicate something related with music to tribute his contribution as an inspiration to those that are trying to emulate his work”.
Elias was also known to compose a song, Negarit that became a crying call to help millions of people who were victims of famine in 2003 as well as other charitable gestures, including on the environment, youth engagment and on HIV / AIDS.
A member of the band, Zema Lastas and Afro Sounds bands, and his sound stood out as he introduced the practice of studio music production in the nation.
For Marta Tadesse, a noted self-described ‘humanitarian photographer’, he was more than an artist but an authentic person of music and truth.
“Elias Melka isn’t just a great artist. He is a great example of authenticity”, she said. “He lived his truth. He did what he loved and believed. Thank you for all the wonderful and powerful music you made. Courageous one, may your soul rest in peace. May your name be raised only for praise”.
Many cited him as a musical genius, a Quincy Jones-like character that elevated their sound to popularity, included in the long list is Henock Mehari, a childhood friend and who saw him as one of his musical mentors.
“Elias Melka (is my) number one adviser and consultant,” he said last year on his appearance of the Coca Cola studio.
“Elias Melka has been my favorite in the music industry of Ethiopia. It is a great loss! May God bless his soul and my condolence to his family, friends & fans! He will be missed,” said Kindeya G. hiwot, the President of Mekele University, on his official twitter page.
“We lost one of a kind! Thank you for the beautiful sound of my Generation, said the Prime Ministers personal photographer, Arone Simeneh, “I will always be grateful for the incredible music you gave us!! Rest In Power the King”.
His last full length album was from 2016, the “geteanley album”.
A memorial service was held for him in Addis Ababa at the National Theater and as well as in Virginia, United States where a candlelight vigil was held in his honor.