Radio Ethiopia

DEBOThe 11-member Debo Band, led by saxophonist/ethnomusicologist Danny Mekonnen, has members from multiple continents, but its musical roots are deep in Ethiopian soil. On its 2012 self-titled debut, the Boston-based band, above, deployed brass, accordion and a rhythm section that will move even those unfamiliar with Ethiopia’s rich dance legacy. Ahead of Debo Band’s Thursday performance at Artisphere, we present a primer to some of Ethiopia’s leading pop artists, most of whom reigned from 1969 through 1978, the “golden age” of modern Ethiopian music.

Tlahoun Gèssèssè: In the capital of Addis Ababa, musicians, forbidden to work independently, joined police or military orchestras that played nightclubs around the city. At 18, Gèssèssè was recruited as a singer for the Imperial Body Guard Band and became a national celebrity. His love songs often carried hidden political messages.

Asnaketch Worku: When she was a child in Addis Ababa, Worku taught herself to play the krar, a bowl-shaped lyre. She would grow up to be a master of the instrument, and her hits were compiled on “Ethiopiques 16: The Lady with the Krar.”

Alemayehu Eshete: One of the country’s finest dance composers, Eshete was famous for his charismatic stage presence. In the late 1960s, he founded Amha Records, releasing hits by many of Ethiopia’s most innovative artists.

Mahmoud Ahmed: Born in Addis Ababa in 1941, Ahmed joined the Imperial Body Guard Band in the 1960s. He remained a draw for the orchestra until the 1974 military overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie ushered in strict censorship laws.

Tlahoun Gèssèssè: In the capital of Addis Ababa, musicians, forbidden to work independently, joined police or military orchestras that played nightclubs around the city. At 18, Gèssèssè was recruited as a singer for the Imperial Body Guard Band and became a national celebrity. His love songs often carried hidden political messages.

Artisphere Ballroom, 1101 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; Thu., 8 p.m., $15; 703-875-1100. (Rosslyn)

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