Walias Band (sometimes spelled Wallias Band; Amharic: ዋሊያስ ባንድ?) is an Ethiopian Jazz and funk band active from the early 1970s until the early 1990s. Formed by members of the Venus Band, Walias backed up many prominent singers with a hard polyrhythmic funk sound influenced by western artists like King Curtis, Junior Walker and Maceo Parker. In 1977 they recorded one of the few albums of Ethiopian instrumental music in collaboration with vibraphonist Mulatu Astatke, whose role as a bandleader and composer was also a major influence on Ethiopian popular music.
In 1981 Walias became the first modern Ethiopian band to travel to the United States, playing on a tour with singer Mahmoud Ahmed primarily to audiences of Ethiopian refugees. Four members—Girma Bèyènè, Mogès Habté, Mèlakè Gèbrè and Hailu Mergia—stayed in the U.S. and formed a new group called Zula Band in favor of returning to live in Ethiopia under its dictatorship. Mergia took work in Washington DC driving a taxi cab and released solo cassette tapes of traditional Ethiopian music played on analog synthesizer, electric piano and accordion. The remaining members—Yohannes Tèkola and Tèmarè Harègou—continued to play together under the Derg dictatorship for another decade.
Hailu Mergia and Walias Band 1970
In the late 1990s Walias Band found a wider audience in the west when the French label Buda Records reissued much of the group's music on the Ethiopiques series of compact discs. Their instrumental, 'Musicawi Silt', became a popular dance number and has been covered by a number of artists.
The Walias Band's name derives from the walia ibex, an endangered species of the Capra genus native to the mountains of Ethiopia. They share no members with the similarly named Ibex Band who also backed up Mahmoud Ahmed during the same epoch.
Walias Band - 01 - Track 01 (5:12)
Walias Band - 02 - Track 02 (5:06)
Walias Band - 03 - Track 03 (4:11)
Walias Band - 04 - Track 04 (6:01)
Walias Band - 05 - Track 05 (6:03)
Walias Band - 06 - Track 06 (3:57)