Ethiopian Diaspora In America -By Amber Peffer

Many people may think that Ethiopians started to come to America during the time that they were forced to; meaning they were slaves. Ethiopia wasn’t the country that was included with the slave trade. It is actually pretty recent that Ethiopians started migrating to America. It was shortly after the Refugee Act of 1980, that Ethiopians’ migrated to America and they were also the most represented group that was from Africa for a long period of time (Kobel).

The Horn of Africa, which is where Ethiopia lies, is a place where a lot of conflict took place. This conflict included “violence, poverty, governmental issues, famine, etc.” (Terrazas). This had caused Ethiopians to seek refuge somewhere else. The United States and Israel had the highest migration rates, but Ethiopians had also migrated to “Saudi Arabia, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Italy, etc.” (Terrazas). The United States had the highest migration rates of Ethiopians overall.

When Ethiopians got to the United States of America they dispersed to areas that had highly dense populations of Ethiopians already. These areas include “Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., New York City, and Dallas” (Kobel). In order to get admitted into the United States there were a few details that were looked at. These include religion and education. This is because if they related closely to the majority of American culture it would ease their transition to their new “home.” This means that they had to have influenced each other in one way or another, which would include their music.

When people come together they are bound to be influenced by each other. This concept goes for music as well, since music is a way of communication. Since, people use music to celebrate special occasions, express feelings, etc; it was bound for cultures to integrate their music. In this case, music from Ethiopia was influenced by the music that was portrayed in the United States during the time they had migrated to the United States. This is why America is known as a “melting pot;” meaning that it contains a wide variety of cultures, which then mix together and form new cultures. Ethiopian music has been fused with styles like “American R&B, funk and free-form jazz” (Denselow). Musicians such as Mahmoud Ahmed, Alemayehu Eshete, etc. “listened to American hits” and fused them with Ethiopian music that they were accustomed to (Denselow). This then created their own style, which made them the famous musicians that they are today.

The style “Ethio-Jazz became recognized by Mulatu Astatke. Astatke had grown up in Ethiopia and went to America to study Jazz” (Kornbluth). This shows how Astatke took the music he was accustomed to (Ethiopian) and fused it with Jazz, which was popular in the United States. It shows how both styles influenced each other and created a new style. This new style of music incorporated brass instruments into Ethiopian music, since jazz is all about brass instruments. The influence of music from the United States is recent to Ethiopian music because it wasn’t until about thirty or so years ago that Ethiopians started migrating to the United States. This goes to show that there will be more styles to come in the future.

Work Cited

1. "Mulatu Astatke - Yegelle Tezeta (1974) ." YouTube. Web. 21 Apr 2011. <>.

2. Denselow, Robin. "R&B, jazz to fuel a 1960s golden age in Ethiopian music." Ethiopian Review ( 2007 ): n. pag. Web. 21 Apr 2011. <>.

3. Kobel, Paul S. "Ethiopian Americans." Countries and Their Cultures. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Apr 2011. <>.

4. Kornbluth, Jesse . "Mulatu Astatke." Ethio Jazz. Broken Flowers, Web. 21 Apr 2011. <>.

5. Terrazas, Aaron Matteo . "Beyond Regional Circularity: The Emergence of an Ethiopian Diaspora ." Migration Information Source. N.p., Jun 2007. Web. 21 Apr 2011. <>.

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