Fendika, a troupe of the most accomplished azmari musicians and dancers from Addis Ababa, draws deeply from the well of Ethiopia’s bardic tradition while adding creative movements and sounds that revitalize their ancient artistic forms. Fendika features six performers – two dancers, a singer, and instruments including kebero drums, masenko (a one-stringed bowed fiddle), and krar (a five- or six-stringed lyre).

Founded in 2009 by Melaku Belay, Ethiopia’s leading dancer and a respected cultural ambassador, the ensemble is based at Melaku’s famous music club, Fendika Azmari Bet, in the Kazanchis neighborhood of Addis Ababa.  In Ethiopian culture, an azmari bet is a traditional house of music where people come to be entertained, informed, and sometimes playfully insulted by the azmari who serve as current events commentators while they dance, sing, and play for tips.

Melaku is the world’s foremost interpreter of eskista, a traditional Ethiopian trance dance of athletic shoulder movements that presage hip hop movements of breaking and popping. Growing up as a street kid, Melaku learned many regional dances of Ethiopia through participation in religious festivals such as Timqat, folk ceremonies, and everyday activities in Addis Ababa and the countryside, where music and dance are a vital part of cultural and spiritual expression. Melaku has traveled throughout Ethiopia to learn the dance traditions of the country’s 80 tribal groups. The musicians and dancers of Fendika present a cultural journey starting in the highlands of Tigray, Wollo, Gonder, and Gojam, also including dances from the Somali and Afar regions and southern Ethiopian dance forms from the Gurage, Wolaita, and Konso traditions.

Melaku and Fendika also extend their base of tradition to new areas of dance collaboration, developing performance partnerships with Ethiopian jazz bands Addis Acoustic Project and U.S.-based Debo Band, as well as international groups such as Le Baroque Nomade, Ukandanz, Akalé Wubé, and especially the Ex. Fendika has appeared recently in France and Mali, and toured with Debo Band in 2011 with stops at the Lowell Folk Festival as well as Lincoln Center. Members of Fendika have toured Holland, Norway, Denmark, and Spain during Summer 2012, also appearing at the 35th International Sacred Music Festival at L’Abbaye de Sylvanés, France.

Watch Past Performances

Video 10/11/2012: Fendika

The group presents a performance of traditional Ethiopian dance and music.

Video 8/8/2011: Debo Band / Fendika

Debo Band performs unique interpretations of classic Ethiopian pop music by combining vintage 1970s with contemporary sounds. Special guest Fendika features a female vocalist, a dance duo, and a traditional goat-skin drummer. Part of the Millennium Stage Happy Hour Series. With drink specials from 5:30 to 8 p.m., patrons can purchase a cold libation from the bar while mingling, dancing, and enjoying a wide range of music.