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Before last summer, probably very few Americans knew the name of Hailu Mergia, a keyboardist and accordion player who struggled to revive his successful music career when he moved from Ethiopia to the D.C. area in the 1980s. But not long after Brian Shimkovitz found some of Mergia’s old music and reissued it on his cassette label, Awesome Tapes From Africa, Mergia was finding new fans—-enough of them to take him out of the Washington Flyer cab he drives full-time and put him on a European tour (and in the pages of the New York Times).
Posted Monday, a new video from the series Far Off Sounds takes a closer look at Mergia, visiting him in his Maryland home and taking a ride in his cab. Mergia revisits his dashed hopes for his old group, Walias Band, talks about his cabbie gig (he stows a keyboard in the trunk and practices on breaks), and shows off his liquor collection.
This isn’t the only video made about Mergia’s life: There’s also this one from August, which is just as worth watching.