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Biography

  • Born

    1974 (age 43)

  • Born In

    Āmara, Ethiopia

Ejigayehu "Gigi" Shibabaw is one of the most successful contemporary Ethiopian singers worldwide.

Ejigayenuh 'GiGi' Shibabaw was born in rural Ethiopia in 1974 as the fifth child in a coffee growing family of ten that moved to the capital Addis Ababa in 1984. At a very early age, GiGi decided to become a singer.

In 1991 she decided to fully concentrate on music only. Her family opposed to her plans and GiGi ran away to Kenya. There she formed a band and - at the age of 19 - gave her first concert in Nairobi in 1993. When GiGi returned to Ethiopia in 1996, she joined the Ethiopian National Theatre and met singer/krar player Fantahun Shewankochew and singer/masinqo player Wores Egziabher. The trio joined the theatre troupe 'Salomon et Saba', led by Italian director and puppeteer Massimo Schuster and toured East and Southern Africa.

The troupe also visited France where GiGi performed at a world music festival. This visit resulted in the recording of a collection of traditional Ethiopian love songs at the 'Maison des Cultures du Monde' with Fantahun Shewankochew and Wores Egziabher in February 1997. These recordings were released in France as 'ÉTHIOPIE/Chants d Amour' (INEDIT, W260080). For the first time GiGi's remarkable voice could be heard on a recording outside Ethiopia.

In 1998 GiGi was granted a United States visa, which enabled her to move to California. She recorded her first album with producer/arranger/keyboard player and fellow Ethiopian Dereje 'DJ' Makonnen, GiGi wrote all ten songs on the 'One Ethiopia' album herself (Barkhanns Records, BarkCD 105). The album was recorded with electronic instruments only but GiGi's emotional and sensual mezzo-soprano still immediately managed to touch any listener.

The album was well received by the Ethiopian community and it drew the attention of Chris Blackwell of Palm Pictures who introduced her to one of the most prolific musicians in the world today: Bill Laswell. He invited an impressive group of master musicians - among them Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter - and recorded what was to become 'GIGI': an album that combines and transcends jazz, funk, dub and various African and Asian musical styles (Palm Pictures PALMCD 2068-2). GiGi's sensuous and touching voice combined with Bill Laswell's spacious and organic sound made the album one of the highlights of 2001.

GiGi has since continued her working relationship with Bill Laswell. She contributed to 'Radioaxiom: A Dub Transmission' by Jah Wobble and Bill Laswell - alongside reggae giant Sly Dunbar and Norse trumpet player Nils Petter Molvaer (Axiom / Palm Pictures, PALMCD 2073-2). She is part of Bill Laswell's group 'Tabla Beat Science' a live recording of whose was released as 'Live in San Francisco at Stern Grove' (Axiom / Palm Pictures, PALMCD 2084-2) in 2002. That year also saw the release of 'Book of Exit Dub Chamber 4' by Bill Laswell / Sacred System (Roir Records, RUSCD8280 ) featuring GiGi's vocals on three tracks.

In March 2003 'Illuminated Audio' was released: an ambient 'reproduction and mix translation' - according to the sleeve notes - of 'GiGi' by Bill Laswell. It won't be long before GiGi will be widely considered to rank among the likes of Baaba Maal and Youssou N'Dour: artists whose work is of such profound quality and humanity that it transcends culture, language and geographic boundaries.

January 2007 her second CD(sixth and last album released in 2006 acc. to afromix.org) "Gold & Wax" was released which earned 5th place in the BBC radio World Music Awards.

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