Danny Mekonnen

Preferred Name
Danny Mekonnen

Growing up in Texas as a first generation Ethiopian American, Danny Mekonnen often heard Ethiopian saxophone melodies and the sounds of other traditional Ethiopian instruments and vocals, including the East African one-stringed fiddle, 5-string lyres, and shrill and vibrated voices. By the time he was an accomplished saxophonist, Danny sought out master Ethiopian musicians to learn to play the traditional instruments of his Ethiopian heritage. This includes the washint a four-holed bamboo flute played by shepherds in the Ethiopian countryside and the imbilta, a long single-note flute is used in groups of three musicians playing in "hocket," a style of composition where the melody notes are given to individuals alternating notes and rest. Living in Ethiopia in 2007, Mekonnen studied with Getachew Mekuria, a saxophonist who pioneered the techniques of Ethiopian performance, adopting the fast vibrato and virtuosity of the washint and mesenko, a one-stringed fiddle.

In 2006, Mekonnen founded Debo Band, an Ethiopian music collective melding traditional East African polyrhythms, American soul and funk, and the layered instrumentation of Eastern European brass bands, to form a sound that is a jubilant reinvention of music that once rocked Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa. He also performs for events within the Ethiopian community, such as weddings and adoption community gatherings for American parents of Ethiopian children.

Danny Mekonnen taught Ethiopian music to students at the Artists Collective in Hartford in the Southern New England Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program, Year 14, 2011-2012

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