You may have heard Mulatu Astatke's music in the Jim Jarmusch film Broken Flowers, or on various mixtapes and playlists — it’s this hypnotic, pulsing sound that's hard to forget. The godfather of Ethiopian jazz makes a rare U.S. appearance next Wednesday at the U.C. Theatre in Berkeley, and opening the show is the Bay Area’s own Meklit, who’s been an ambassador for East AFrican music worldwide both as an Ethiopian-born TED fellow and in her touring show The Nile Project.
On the importance of Mulatu’s music, "There’s pretty much no artist who’s had a more greater impact on me," Meklit says. "Before him, no one had taken American jazz and Ethiopian pentatonic systems and brought them together in one form. He was the pioneer and the innovator in that sound, and in a way, he freed me to be an innovator."