Gigi was born in 1974 in Chagni, a small rural town in Ethiopia. The fifth born in a family of ten children, Gigi grew up in a musically filled household. "I grew up singing in the Ethiopian Church, which is actually not allowed for women, but there was a priest at my home who taught me how to sing the songs. And I listen to a lot of West African music, South African music, hip hop, and funk, so you feel all that in the melodies. Even if it’s in Amharic, people can appreciate this music."
Gigi has dedicated her life to her music. Her early determination to become a singer put her at odds with her father.
"My father is a businessman, and is very hostile to the fact that I am a singer. I had to run away from home to follow my vocation. He believes that it is shameful to perform in public. Even if I became a big star, he wouldn’t change his mind."
Gigi's ambition never wavered as she later moved to Nairobi, Kenya where she started a trio. Having lived in Nairobi for a couple of years, Gigi returned to Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, where she quickly established herself as a singer and songwriter. Cast in a French theater production of the story of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, Gigi toured East and South Africa, and eventually France, where she was invited to perform at a Paris world music festival. Seeing the world stage as her true home, Gigi relocated to San Francisco at age 24. Her big break came when her music, released for the local Ethiopian community, caught the attention of Chris Blackwell, Palm Pictures founder.
"There are five different vocal modes in the Ethiopian style. You can write millions of songs in one of those modes. It is in the way you phrase; it can sound like a modern song. And it makes the words sound differently. You can use the Bati mode, for instance, in so many styles. But you know when somebody is singing a happy song, they are singing about life. You communicate the sound. Even if you don’t understand the lyrics of a song you understand the feeling; it is universal."
Her renowned album "GiGi" is musically delightful, whether or not you pay attention to the songs messages. Simply magnificent!
Her 2001 album Gigi brought her widespread attention. Together with her husband and music producer, Bill Laswell, Gigi continues to release albums that take you back to her home country, combining her impressive range, her infinitely rich musical heritage and western rhythms - releasing mesmerizing tunes.
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