The cover of the Kino Musica EP Ifaan.


In 2014, a group of D.C. musicians played together for the first time at a musician’s potluck organized by saxophonist Regan Carver. Those instrumentalists and singers soon formed the group Kino Musica. (“Kino” is the nickname of a band member’s cousin, and became part of the group’s moniker when the members could not agree on another name.) They began performing Ethiopian-rooted sounds with tinges of other African and American styles at various D.C. clubs. Now, six years later, the outfit has released its debut EP, Ifaan, which means “the light of the sun” in Oromo. While the band’s membership has changed over time, the EP includes contributions from former members, including Carver, and it still includes original members Kumera Zekarias on guitar and vocals and Besufekad Tadesse on saxophone, both of whom are multi-ethnic Ethiopians of Oromo and Amhara heritage. Zekarias, who arranges or writes most of their songs, was born and raised in Texas, where he started playing blues and rock, in addition to listening to both historic and contemporary Ethiopian music alongside American rap. Ifaan starts with the Kino Musica take on Wegayehu Degenetu‘s love song “Arke Yehuma,” with Zekarias’ melancholy voice drifting over instrumentation featuring classic Ethiopian horn lines and clever guitar chords that organically combine Ethiopian scales and North African desert rock. The band’s video for the song conveys the lyrics, with Zekarias ceremoniously tossing flowers in a pond and a café owner wooing a customer. D.C. has the largest population of Ethiopians in the U.S., and  Zekarias proudly describes his band’s effort as a community project that carries on the legacy of 1980s D.C. Ethiopian diaspora musical offerings, like Admas‘ recently reissued album Sons of Ethiopia. The EP is available on Spotify and Bandcamp. Free–$4.