Ejigayehu Shibabaw (stage name Gigi) is an Ethiopian singer and songwriter. Gigi is known for combining original traditional sounds with a variety of international music. She is also one of the few Ethiopian musicians recognized globally, performing in many stages worldwide.
Gigi was born in 1974 in the Amhara region, Chagni, Ethiopia. Her family moved to the capital Addis Ababa in 1984. Gigi decided to become a singer and songwriter at a very early age.
Her family, who are traditional and religious, challenged her decision to become a singer. To make her dream a reality, Gigi had to run away from her country to Nairobi, Kenya. She was only 19 years old at the time. In 1993, Gigi established a bad and had her first concert in Nairobi. Upon return, she joined the National Theater in Addis Ababa and met musician Fantahun Shewankochew and Weres Egziabeher. The trio was known for its traditional sounds composed by Kirar and Masinko. They have toured eastern and southern Africa as well as some European countries with their music.
In 1997, while performing at a World Music Festival in France their music impressed a record company Maison des Cultures du Monde. The company approached Gigi and her bandmates to record Ethiopian traditional love songs. The company released the record in France with the title ‘ÉTHIOPIE/Chants d Amour’. The same year, Gigi also released her album titled ‘Tsehay’ (the Sun).
In 1998, Gigi moved to the United States. She settled in California and started recording her first album with Dereje Mekonen. Gigi wrote all the ten songs in the album and performed with her sensual voice. The album titled One Ethiopia brought Gigi to the limelight, recognized and loved by many Ethiopians. The strength and the message of the lyrics and the originality, as well as the cultural appropriateness of the melody, singled out Gigi as one of the best creative musicians in the industry. The album draws the attention of Chris Blackwell of Palm Pictures, which led her to meet the renowned musician Bill Laswell.
Bill invited an impressive group of master musicians to record an album, which is now known as ‘Gigi’ and Guramyale (mixed). In 2001, the album was critically acclaimed and became the highlight of Gigi’s music career. The album was a fusion of Africa, Asia, jazz, and funk sounds. It is still considered a masterpiece of Ethiopian/African music.
Gigi also released Illuminated Audio, 2003 (Laswell’s remix of the 2001 album “Gigi”) Abyssinia Infinite: Zion Roots, 2003, Gold & Wax, 2006, Mesgana Ethiopia, 2010.
Gigi’s voice is in the Hollywood film Beyond Borders (2003), in which Angelina Jolie portrays an aid worker during the 1984 – 1985 famine in Ethiopia.
Gigi was married to her long-time mentor and musician Bill Laswell, and they have a son together. They are currently separated. Gigi lives in California, United States.