Mahmoud Ahmed is to Ethiopia what Cliff Richard is to Britain or Johnny Hallyday is to France—someone whose cultural importance far outstrips any recent musical output. The sextuagenarian singer is mostly known to Western audiences via the French “Ethiopiques” compilations, the best of which chronicle his mid-to-late-’70s recordings, during Ethiopia’s grim Derg years. Featuring Ahmed’s tremulous Amharic over Memphis-inspired grooves, the recordings sound like Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn fronting Booker T. & the MG’s, and his idiosyncratic phrasing and allegiance to the pentatonic scale tilt his songs jazzward as well. It’s a boon of living in an area with a large Ethiopian expat community that a singer of Ahmed’s stature makes it over here; that you can see him and other artists, enjoy a free buffet and coffee tasting, and catch the Nats taking on the Braves all on the same ticket is a minor miracle.
ETHIOPIAN HERITAGE APPRECIATION DAY BEGINS AT 3 P.M. AT NATIONALS PARK, 1500 SOUTH CAPITOL ST. SE. $14.75–30.50. EA4C.ORG FOR TICKETS AND INFORMATION.