When Girma Beyene serenades Washington on Friday night, it should feel like a halfway-homecoming. The great Ethiopian singer, lyricist and arranger first found himself in the District way back in 1981 during a tour in the Walias Band, one of Ethiopia’s most revered jazz troupes. Beyene liked the District enough to stay — but not for good. After many years in the area, he eventually returned to Addis Ababa.
It was there, during the 1960s and ’70s, where Beyene had been a major player in one of the planet’s most electrifying music scenes. After co-founding the Alem-Girma Band alongside the great vocalist Alemayehu Eshete, Beyene became a highly esteemed arranger, generating more than 65 songs during what many consider to be the golden years of “Swinging Addis.” (Among those tunes: the deeply beloved and consummately funky “Muziqawi Silt,” popularized by Hailu Mergia, another giant of Ethiopian song who still lives in the Washington area.)
As a singer, Beyene’s voice is a relatively sweet and delicate thing, and listeners can expect it to be artfully framed on Friday. That’s because Beyene will be backed by Washington’s Feedel Band, an excellent group whose members performed alongside Beyene in the Walias Band on that fateful American tour 35 years ago. So if this gig doesn’t technically qualify as a homecoming, it certainly counts as a reunion — one you should not miss.
Show: With Feedel Band on Friday at Atlas Performing Arts Center. Show starts at 8 p.m. 202-399-7993. atlasarts.org. $20-$28.