A true Ethiopian musical legend, Hailu was the keyboardist and accordionist of the Walias Band, one of the most popular groups from the country’s 70’s golden age. Having left Ethiopia with the Walias in 1981 and shortly after their first tour of the US, the original Walias Band broke up.

Mergia recorded his first solo album, Hailu Mergia and His Classical Instrument, in 1985. It’s a dreamy, hypnotic album, just Mergia in the studio, with a Rhodes piano, Moog synth and a drum machine.

He released Classical Instrument on cassette and played a few concerts in Paris, London and Addis Ababa, but in 1991 he stopped performing. Seven years later, he bought his first taxi and started working at Washington D.C. airport.

Brian Shimkovitz, a music blogger who started the reissue label Awesome Tapes from Africa, came across Classical Instrument in a cassette bin in Ethiopia and was hooked. When Shimkovitz rereleased the album in 2014, Mergia was invigorated enough to tour again and write new material.

In concert, Hailu is being backed by America's leading Ethiopian bassist Alem Kebede and the longtime drummer of reggae legends Culture, Ken Joseph.