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  • Carnegie Hall Presents
  • ZH Zankel Hall
  • SA/PS Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
  • REW Resnick Education Wing
  • WRH Weill Recital Hall

Mahmoud Ahmed

In Ethiopia, the word is eskeusta, which roughly translated means “ecstasy.” More specifically, it is a shaking sensation that begins at one’s shoulders, quivering down the spine and into the legs and feet. Of all the great male vocalists that Ethiopia has produced (and there have been quite a few), none have inspired eskeusta better than Mahmoud Ahmed.

For more than 40 years, Ahmed has deftly combined the traditional Amharic music of Ethiopia (essentially a five-note scale that features jazz-style singing offset by complex circular rhythm patterns that give the music a distinct Indian feel) with pop and jazz, yielding some of the most adventurous, passionate, ear-opening, downright surrealistic sounds. In fact, until you’ve heard Ahmed’s sweeping multi-octave voice in full workout, words hardly do it justice. As with the late, great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Ahmed simply has to be heard to be believed and appreciated.


Ahmed has been a star in Ethiopia almost since the day he began recording. His vocals, complemented by the freewheeling jazziness of Ibex (the band with which he recorded his masterpiece, Ere Mela Mela), are very different from what is normally lumped into the broad style of Afro-pop. The rhythms are repetitive and intense, not too dissimilar from, say, Fela—just a little less hard. But it’s Ahmed’s voice—swirling high notes that sound as if they’re chasing one another, impeccable tone and phrasing—that is the distinguishing element. By singing in this style, Ahmed has attempted to fuse the past and the present. He is not an elitist when it comes to singing older Ethiopian music, but rather he hears the similarities in Ethiopian pop that have thrived over time and is keen to bring them together.

Mahmoud Ahmed
Mahmoud Ahmed
Saturday, October 22 at 8 PM
Mahmoud Ahmed

Ethiopian singer Mahmoud Ahmed blends the traditional Amharic music of his homeland with pop and jazz for an ear-opening, ecstatic experience.