Kibrom Birhane carries with him an ancient tradition, a spirit of dedication to roots and ever-expanding innovation. The Ethiopian-born multi-instrumentalist and keyboardist extraordinaire is a leader among jazz artists, mixing spiritual and Ethiopian jazz motifs to create a uniquely deep sound that resonates across cultures and musical concepts.
As a child, Kibrom studied Ethiopian orthodox chanting and traditional instruments at a monastery, later melding thousand-year-old musical histories with modern sounds. This religious connection to music is a testament to Kibrom's artistry; a righteous gift he shares as teacher and creator. Kibrom is a humble but prolific and engaging player whose art has touched the Mekane Yesus School of Jazz Music in Addis, the far reaches of Ethiopia, and taken flight across the world to California. Thousands of miles from his native land, Kibrom found commune with Los Angeles African jazz ensemble Ethio-Cali – a renowned group whose members included Jazz luminaries Kamasi Washington, Dexter Story, Mark De-Clive Lowe and others. With Ethio-Cali, Kibrom cemented himself as an important figure in the LA arts community and beyond.
Kibrom’s deep understanding of Ethiopian tradition and sublime ability to fuse those sounds with funk, gospel, pop and folk earned him an All African
Music Award nomination for best male artist. His unique interpretations and melodic textures are on full display on his debut record, Kibrom’s Tizita, the self-released Bo Gizzae Lekulu (A Time for Everything), an EP influenced by traditional Ethiopian scales called Ethio-Qignit, and the single “Diro Ena Zendiro.” Circles, Kibrom’s first EP for Flying Carpet Records, evolved from a live jazz session with a cadre of Ethio-Cali family and top players, including Ethiopian bass legend Misgana Mulat. Under the collaborative direction of FCR head Kamal de Iruretagoyena Humphrey, this stellar group of multicultural musicians were recorded in studio without headphones to reflect the intimate setting of spiritual jazz masterpieces. The resulting moody Ethio-jazz with a hint of Peter Frampton is a mystical trip that has taken flight around the world.
Kibrom’s creativity knows no bounds. The musician has been furiously writing and collaborating virtually with friends across the globe for future projects. His next album with Flying Carpet will also be a live jazz session with Ethiopian influences and a funkier, more upbeat tone. “These musicians are all special. They help me fuse my understanding of Ethiopian music and interpret current sounds, but it still has all the vibe,” Kibrom says.
Kibrom has also worked as a producer, engineer, writer, arranger, vocalist and musician for a wide variety of Ethiopian gospel artists, and created an original music for the African Movie Academy-nominated documentary Sincerely Ethiopia. He has recorded and performed with musicians from all over the world, including Dan Wilson, Mychael Danna, K’Naan, Meklit Hadero and Quantic, and is also a host for Coke Studio Radio Africa.