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Called the “Queen of Ethiopian Music,” Aster Aweke has performed to stadium-size crowds in her country, but for a period in the 1980s, she lived here, in exile, and played local restaurants several times a week. Between 1989 and 1991, she had a major-label deal with Columbia Records, who promoted her records to a “world music” audience, then dropped her from the roster. But her subsequent releases on Ethiopian and Ethiopian-American labels cemented her fanbase, and she went on to play a triumphant homecoming concert in Addis Ababa in 1997. Now in her 50s and living in Ethiopia, the vocalist has released her 23rd album (2010’s Checheho) and a slate of recent singles. Her relevance remains intact, particularly on her understated version of the ballad “Tizita,” and her newest cut, the flashier “Ye-inëta.” Over upbeat keyboards, Aweke joyously flaunts her vocal range and melds muezzin-like Ethiopian scales with African-American rhythm and blues. Tonight, anticipate a loyal crowd that’s stuck around since her days of wowing audiences at D.C. restaurants.
Aster Aweke performs with Dawit Melese at 11:45 p.m. at DC Star, 2135 Queens Chapel Road NE. $35 in advance, $40 at door. (240) 476-2342.