Four Ethiopian musicians who won political asylum here after stealthily leaving a Southwest Washington hotel to defect five months ago are making music that will be heard on the radio in their homeland.
The four, who were part of their nation's premier folklore ensembles before defecting from its tightly guarded tour in late March, have recreated their former band and will stage an Ethiopian New Year's Eve show at 9 p.m. tomorrow at the Capital Hilton.
"The similarity to the old group is amazing," said Yeheyes Wuhib, a broadcaster for the Voice of America's Amharic Service, which transmits one hour a day of Ethiopian programming to the Marxist-run country. Wuhib is recording the defectors' performance for broadcast to Ethiopia on the national holiday.
"We will let the people there know we are following the traditional Ethiopian culture in this country," Wuhib said.
Almost 2,000 tickets to the show by Yared -- a group named for a singer in the Bible -- have been sold to Washington area Ethiopians.
The band leader, Tesfaye Lemma, has spent two months recruiting singers and dancers and rehearsing the group in numbers to be played on American-made traditional Ethiopian instruments.
Lemma and the other three performers were in Washington in late March for a show at the Kennedy Center, part of the folklore ensemble's world tour. After the performance, during a cast party at the Skyline Inn on South Capitol Street SW, one performer slipped past 13 security guards, went into the men's room, up to the fifth floor and out a trash chute to the ground.
The others performers followed a few hours later, walking out the front door of the hotel to the waiting car of an acquaintance in the Washington Ethiopian community.
The defectors remained hidden in the homes of various local Ethiopians for several weeks -- avoiding searches by the FBI and, they feared, the Ethiopian government -- until they were granted asylum by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Lemma hopes to make his new group a permanent company; for now, the defectors mix their musical endeavors with new jobs at local hotels and convenience stores.