Old African Music

Hailu Mergia & the Walias Band

The first full length album by The Walias Band & Hailu Mergia, recorded and released in 1975 by the band’s own label.


At Zula Club he and his mates formed Walias Band and did something no other band in Ethiopian nightclub history had done: they started buying their own musical instruments. Until then the club owners were supplying the instruments and had the power to fire musicians at will.

For the first time ever Walias Band signed a contract with the owner of Venus Club as a group thereby protecting themselves from club owners. Mergia and Walias Band went on to do gigs at hotels like Wabi Shebele and the Hilton.

After playing almost eight years at the Hilton Hotel, Mergia and Walias Band came to the United States and toured widely in 1982-1983. Afterwards, some of of the band stayed in America while others went back to Addis.

They were the first band to form independently without affiliation to a theatre house, a club or a hotel; unprecedented and risky as they had to raise all funding for expenses by themselves including buying equipment. They were the first to release full instrumental albums, considered to be commercially unviable at the time. They opened their own recording studio, with band members Melake Gebre and Mahmoud Aman doubling as technical buffs during sessions. They were also the first independent band to tour abroad. In short, they were the pioneers every band tried to emulate; some more successfully than others.

I didn’t write “Muziqawi Silt,” Girma [Beyene] wrote it. We needed some original songs, so I asked him to write one. The funny part is that when I asked him, “What is the title of the song?” he said he didn’t know and told me to come up with something. So it means, something like “the blend of music” or “the art of music.” Girma is a very talented person. He can do any kind of stuff. But he is a very quiet, very cool guy.
He was working for a long time at a gas station in Washington D.C. The first time I heard a cover of “Musicawi Silt,” I was so happy. Even Yo Yo Ma plays it.
Hailu Mergia via Afropop Worldwide

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