Getachew Kassa is an Ethiopian singer most active in the 1960s-80s, an era considered the golden age of Ethiopian music. His music transcended time, and is popular with the present generation. His songs like Emegnalehu (I wish), Tizeta (memory), Yekereme Fiker (old love), Addis Ababa, Ewedeshalhu (I Love you), Hayal Lefiker (powerful for love), Amesegenalehu (Thank you), Lewsedesh Ande’ken (Let me take you one day) are still fan favorites, with strong lyrics and impressive melody. He is also remembered by many for his striking stage moves and twist dance.
His style and powerful voice is considered unique and attractive, making Getachew a relevant figure in the current Ethiopian music scene.
Getachew Kassa was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He started singing when he was only six year’s old. His first choice an Italian song titled Azemerina.
His family was resistant of his decision to become a professional singer. Getachew had to change his last name, to Kassa, to please his family and continue his music career.
Getachew’s passion for music was revealed when he was only six year’s old. He started singing at home and for his friends.
His first single hit was Emegnalehu (I wish). The song was so popular that at the time Getachew’s name was changed to Emegnalehu.
As a young man Getachew played with several band’s including Fetan Band, Patrice Lumumba Band, Wabe Shebele Band, Walya Band and Hilton Band. He was first hired to play accordion at Sombrino which was a hit club in Addis Ababa back in the 1960s and 70s. Legendary singers including Alemayehu Eshete played at Sombrino. Getachew started playing accordion and singing for 15 birr for a night. He created many hit singles while working at the club. He then moved to Axum Hall, another famous music hub, for Addis residents during that era. Getachew also played at Venus Club & Taietu Hotel. He was becoming very popular rapidly, for his original hits that every club at the time wanted to hire him.
Getachew moved to USA in 1981, with the famous Ethiopian jazz and funk band, Walya Band for a music tour. After their show in Los Angeles, California for the Ethiopian diaspora, Getachew decided to stay in the United States.
He published his first CD in United States in 1983. He then returned to Ethiopia and stayed until 1991. Getachew again moved back to United States in 1991.
In 2012, his music was published on an album as part of the American superstar Bob Dylan’s Artists Choice. Bob Dylen chose Tizeta (memory) by Getachew as part of the collection titled ‘Music that mattered to me most’. On the CD description for the album, Bob Dylen wrote that he was genuinely impressed by Getachew’s performance, and was compelled to choose it as part of the music list that most mattered to him. However, there was a legal controversy on the album since it was published without a consent of any of the artists included in the list. Bob Dylan was sued for copy right issues, by several artists in the album. Getachew was paid undisclosed amount for the publication of his music by Bob Dylan. Getachew said he was not in favor of suing Bob Dylan and he was honored to be part of a music list that mattered most to the global superstar.
His music attracts contemporary and young artists, and there is always a remake of many of his hits. Jano Band, Zeritu Kebede, Munit Mesfen and many other young and upcoming artists are known for remaking his music.
Getachew Kassa lives in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.