Guitar virtuoso Michael Hailu, a long time member and musical director of Jano Band, has always marched to his own drum, following his own musical journey. Michael is gaining wide critical acclaim and attracting legions of fans. He has played a key role in the local music scene as a producer of many popular local artists such as Michael Belayneh, Teddy Afro and Abinet Agonafir. With his signature guitar close by, and his warm, open personality in full display, the 28-year-old shares his experiences to SAMSON BERHANE, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER, inside his studio, about music, life and how he became interested in playing the guitar by watching a video of Michael Jackson and his guitarist. With his unique sound and contribution to the advancement of Ethiopian music, it is easy to predict why he is indeed a star in the making.
Fortune: What inspired you to become an artist?
I have loved the sound of a guitar since my younger days. I discovered Jennifer Batten play in a Michael Jackson concert and I was impressed. How could I not be that, when I was discovering something unique and beautiful? For the longest time, playing with my guitar became my best memorable hours well spent.
Then I also discovered other kinds of music, including gospel and popular music. For me, music is something that takes you away to moments that mean something for you. It takes me back to the days I would walk into a church and receive some peace of mind. As far as popular music is concerned, I first became a member of a group, founded by popular artist Dawit Tsige.
Q: Do you recall the excitement you had when your work came out?
I most definitely do. It was my effort with Abel Mulugeta on the album “Tegerime” and then I got to work with Teddy Afro. That was a milestone moment for me. It is very hard to identify which song made me known to the public. I worked in many bands, however, my work with Michael Belayneh, the song Tizita must have been the one that made me, humbly, a household name.
Q: Jano is known for its unique sound.
Before my work with Jano, I was mainly interested in rock music. That is more of my style. Jano has a sound that is mixed, a reflection of our diversity in contemporary, jazz, and soul music and gospel.
I brought the idea to the group. However, it was Bill Laswell (former partner of Gigi), a famous American producer, who worked with the likes of U2, who brought us together. Since he was our producer at the time, we followed suit and accepted his advice. We are known to experiment, to discover all unique styles.
Read the full interview here