Artist Merawi Sitot was born in 1936 in the rural Ethiopian region of Wollo Ambassel. An orchestra that came to town one day had such a profound impact on him that at age 14 he moved to Addis Ababa to pursue a musical career. Merawi helped set up the Ethiopian National Theatre and managed the National Theatre’s Music Orchestra for 27 years.
Through a long and versatile musical career, he worked with his country across three successive governments as a sax and clarinet player and arranger for more than 43 years, writing and composing music that he toured around the world with fellow musicians including the acclaimed Tilahun. Together with other artists of the “Golden Era” of Ethiopian music, they helped raise awareness and opened up enjoyment of African music to a global audience.
Upon receiving the Gold Mercury International Award for Global Culture in 1985 for his contributions to his country’s culture, he dedicated it to the national theatre, his self-pronounced “second-home”, declaring:
”Though this award is given to me, it is not only mine. It is the output of my friends who have been working so hard with me for the last 43 years […] rather this [the national theater] is the right place for it.”
This year, the ninth edition of the Ethiopian Music Festival held at the National theatre, which is organised by the alliance Ethio-Francaise with the support of various embassies and institutions, was dedicated to Merawi along with Getachew Debalque, another luminary of the Ethiopian musical stage.