In five words
Traditional, hybrid, laid-back, power, spice
Sound of the city?
This cacophony of sounds is a quintessential sampling of what you can expect to hear on any corner in Addis. The rhythmic pounding of construction, coupled with car horns, ambulances, dogs barking, random yelling in the street and the occasional rooster, for good measure, is a testament to the daily grind of transformation going on in the city.
Everyone’s tuning into …
The Seifu Fantahun show on the EBS channel. It’s Ethiopia’s closest thing to the Tonight Show and Fantahun’s quick-witted commentary and sharp tongue make him the local version of Jay Leno.
Best current venue
The Zoma Contemporary Arts Center, near the Vatican Embassy in the Old Airport area of Addis Ababa, is a contemporary arts space and sanctuary that is the brainchild of artist Elias Sime and curator Meskerem Assegued. The founders developed a unique space for arts education, community building, and creative exploration that captivates all who visit it.
Who’s top of the playlist?
Jano Band has taken the city by storm with their modern melodies and rock-influenced electric guitar and percussions solos. When they are not touring internationally, they are guest performing in jam sessions around the city.
Best local artist?
Sileshi Demissie is a Renaissance man in every sense of the word. This poet, actor, and traditional Ethiopian ethno-musicology expert is renowned for his skillful use of the Kirar, a traditional Ethiopian lyre. He is also a committed environmental and community activist, responsible for starting Addis Ababa’s first beautification, recycling, and urban revitalization programs.
The look on the street
There are two divergent looks going on in the city: the trendy, slightly conservative style of young professionals, and the edgier youth subculture style. What ties both styles together is that they always feature a touch of cultural flair.
Best cultural Instagram?
Girma Berta is a local art director receiving critical acclaim for his iPhone-captured vignettes of Addis Ababa streets and city life. His pictures capture the grit of the city while elevating mundane aspects of daily life to a level of high art beauty, and, above all, dignity.
What’s the big talking point?
Although most would assume the major talking point would be the recent elections, the real topic on everyone’s lips, regardless of their political affiliation, is car accidents. There are so many wrecked cars and destroyed roads that there are Facebook pages and forums dedicated to documenting the absurd pervasiveness of accidents in Addis Ababa.
What your city does better than anyone …
Coffee! Besides being the birthplace of coffee, and the world’s biodiversity source for Arabica coffee, Ethiopia is also the origin of collective coffee culture. Coffee inEthiopia was once an integral part of spiritual worship, complete with elaborate rituals. Today’s coffee ceremonies are more traditional performance art than veneration practice, but the two-hour demonstration is a worthwhile experience. In Addis Ababa, every block seems to have a dozen cafes. Coffee is available in a variety of styles, from the old-fashioned made with the traditional Ethiopian ceramic Jebenna coffee pot, to macchiatos and lattes to unique coffee/tea/juice blends called “sprices”.
Filfilu – his shtick is playing the idiot savant and his comedy covers everything from changing traditions to sex. No matter how crude a joke, he’s always able to charm you with his signature toothless smile.
Moment in history?
The establishment of the Organisation of African Unity on 25 May 1963, now replaced by the African Union (AU). This moment brought together 32 African governments, marking the end of colonialism and embodying a new era of African independence. The AU recently celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013 with a retrospective on the Pan-African mission of the former OAU.
Best street art?
Ethiopia is a bit behind in formalised, or high-level street art, but signs of a homegrown street-art and performance-art scene are emerging. One of the best examples of this is coming out of the skateboarding movements spearheaded byEthiopia Skate and Megabi Skate, which are encouraging the youth to gain confidence by conquering Addis Ababa’s concrete terrain. Graffiti is rampant in areas where these skateboarders practice, so it’s only a matter of time before they develop into more formalised styles.