ISSUE Project Room and Unseen Worlds present a rare North American performance by Ethiopia's most famous living pianist and composer, Girma Yifrashewa. A highly accomplished performer of the romantic repertoire, Yifrashewa has chosen to remain in Ethiopia— where classical music is far from a dominant practice— forging a classical tradition for his own country. Using traditional tunes as a foundation, Yifrashewa’s compositions combine the ecstasy of Ethiopian harmony with the grandeur of virtuoso piano technique into an effortlessly enjoyable, heady mixture. In this solo piano concert, Yifrashewa performs works by Chopin, Schumann, Debussy, and Mozart, as well as a set of his own Ethiopian informed compositions.
Born in Addis Ababa in 1967, Girma Yifrashewa's life in music began with the Kirar, a harp-like traditional Ethiopian string instrument, at a tender age. He was introduced to piano at the age of 16 when he joined the Yared School of Music in Addis Ababa, and continued his studies at the Sofia State Conservatory of Music in Bulgaria with the support of the Ethiopian government. Despite losing his scholarship after only three years due to the fall of the Communist regime in 1989, Yifrashewa emigrated to Italy where, while under the care of Caritas, his talent and desire to return to his studies in Bulgaria was discovered by the Christian Brothers. Through their support he was able to return to the Sofia Conservatory in 1991, where he graduated with a Masters in Piano under Professor Atanas Kurtev.
It was in Bulgaria that he made an impact as a solo pianist, performing the works of Schumann, Schubert, Chopin and Debussy, throughout the country until his return to East Africa in 1995. He has a preference and well-determined approach to the music of Bach as well as Mozart and Beethoven.
Yifrashewa returned to Ethiopia in 1995, teaching piano at the Yared School of Music until 2001. He received scholarships for short-term specialization courses from the British and German Governments, at the Royal Academy of Music in London (1997) and at the Hochschule fur Music Und Theater in Leipzig (1999). Currently Yifrashewa works to promote Ethiopian and Classical Music throughout the continent and beyond.
Yifrashewa has released three albums through the support of Ethiopian commissions: The Shepherd with the Flute (2001), Meleya Keleme (2003) and Elilta (2005).
Yifrashewa performs frequently in Ethiopia and abroad, including international tours both solo and with Ethiopian vocalists, and on invitations from Egypt, Djibouti, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, Mauritius, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, South Africa, Seychelles, Zambia, Malawi, Bulgaria, Italy, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Australia, and the United States.
In October 2009, Yifrashewa was invited for the International Symposium and Festival in The USA “Africa Meets North America“ at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). He returns to the States this Summer for concerts with Issue Project Room in Brooklyn and Non Sequitur in Seattle, thanks in part to support from Unseen Worlds Records.