Of the numerous traditional Ethiopian dancers that have graced stages in the past decades, Melaku Belay stands out as one. His unique style of dancing, which has added to the various regional dances enjoyed by Ethiopians at large, has brought both local and international audiences to him in particular, and the country’s culture in general.
Beginning his career at Fendika Azmari Bet, where elaborate dances are performed every night, he has worked his way to fame but stayed with the establishment for almost 20 years. A decade later, he formed his own band Fendika, with which he toured around the world, including the United States, France, Spain, and Norway.
He is self-taught and experimental as he likes to do fusion of various moves. To his credit, Melaku has never flinched from teaching others the craft of his art. In 2006, he started offering dance lessons to students at the Alliance-Ethio Francaise. He sees culture as something that can evolve, and as such could be adapted by the contemporary generation too.
Innovative ideas can come from all sorts of places, and Melaku never shies away from experimenting. He has worked on occasion with jazz bands like Nubian Park and Acoustic Project, in his bid to nurture talent and diversify the art’s fan base. SAMSON BERHANE, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER, sat down with him to pick on his brain. YOU CAN READ THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE.