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Girma Yifrashewa: The Shepherd with the flute


Habesha Nights Ethiopian Dinner Party, Bunna Cafe, Brooklyn, New York, June, 2013





        Girma Yifrashewa












Elilta (Cry of Joy): Ethiopian Classical Music by Girma Yifrashewa
(7:06), Ambassel (9:40), Chewata (9:31), Sememen (9:50), My Strong Will (7:32), The Shepherd with the Flute (8:50)
Girma Yifrashewa, piano
Doroteya Dimitrova, violin
Lyubomir Nikov, cello
Mikhail Zhivkov, clarinet
Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra
Dian Tchobanov, Conductor
Balkan Multimedia Center (2006)

Home -> Musicians -> Yifrashewa, Girma


Girma Yifrashewa  (b. 1967)

Ethiopian Classical Pianist & Composer

Bethesda, Maryland Appearance in U.S. on July 30, 2014 is CD Release Party for Love and Peace on Unseen Worlds Music Label


 Table of Contents

 1 Birth
 2 First Saw Piano
 3 Scholarship
 4 Solo Pianist
 5 Stipend Lost
 6 Return to School
 7 Graduate Studies
 8 Positions
 9 Classical CD
10 Works on First CD
11 Other Works
12 Preparation
13 Centennial Event
14 Elilta
15 Tours of Africa
16 Phoenix Prize
17 Other Travel

Girma Yifrashewa:
Love & Peace
Unseen Worlds UW13 (2014)


Audio Samples: Balkan Multimedia Center (2006); Elilta: Ethiopian Classical Music by Girma Yifrashewa; Girma Yifrashewa, piano
    a Elilta
    b Ambassel
    c Chewata
    d Sememen
    e My Strong Will
    f The Shepherd with the Flute

1 Birth
The African pianist Girma Yifrashewa has a website at: http://www.GirmaYifrashewa.com.  Girma was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Oct. 15, 1967.  He is the first Ethiopian classical pianist to perform widely in Africa.  He has also given concerts many other places, including Europe and Australia.  Married and the father of one child, he lives in Addis Ababa.

2 First Saw Piano
Girma's bio explains that he played the kirar as a child:

Born in Addis Ababa on 15 October 1967, Girma learnt to play the Kirar, a harp-like traditional Ethiopian string instrument, at a tender age. He was introduced to piano at the age 16, marking a turn in his

The online Addis Tribune reported on May 25, 2001 that Yifrashewa first saw a piano on the day he began his studies at the renowned Yared Music School in Addis Ababa:

Girma first saw the piano at the Yared Music School when he was sixteen. He had just passed the entrance examination and was about to join the school with only the love and the ability to play the kirar, the Ethiopian stringed instrument. "When I saw the grand piano there in the room at the school I fell in love with it," recalls Girma.  "I never had any other choice.

3 Scholarship
The bio of the pianist explains the first two phases of his studies in piano:

He studied at the Yared School of Music in Addis Ababa for four years and graduated with a diploma in piano. He then received a five-year bursary from the Ethiopian government to study at the Sofia State Conservatory of Music and graduated with a Masters in Piano.

4 Solo Pianist
It was in Bulgaria that the young student established himself as a solo pianist, his bio says:

It is in Bulgaria that he made an impact as a solo pianist holding shows throughout the country until his return to East Africa in 1995.  Perhaps his best show was in the Salabaldini Room in Rome just before returning to his home

His best achievement as a performer is in the sphere of romantic and impressionist repertoires, above all the piano works of Schumann, Schubert and Debussy. He has a preference and well-determined approach to the music of Bach as well as to those of Mozart and Beethoven.

5 Stipend Lost
The fall of the Soviet Union had immediate impact on Yifrashewa's graduate studies in Bulgaria, as the Addis Tribune relates:                       

His training in Bulgaria was never a rosy one.  In the middle of his school years at the Conservatory, Girma saw the collapse of the Soviet Union that was also felt seriously in Bulgaria.  Instantly, the stipend that they got as students was discontinued and [he] could not carry on with his drills as he had no access to the piano.

6 Return to School
The article explains that Yifrashewa's financial crisis caused him to leave Bulgaria.  He arrived at a train station in Rome, Italy penniless. An Ethiopian he met there took him in, and soon Yifrashewa found shelter with the Christian Brothers in Rome.  After a short period of manual labor by day and piano practice by night, financial support from the Christian Brothers enabled Yifrashewa to return to Sofia to complete his studies.  He is quoted as saying:                      

"The brothers saved me and made me what I am today as I possibly would have ended up being somebody else," he notes. He then completed his education at the Conservatory in good standing. "His performance radiates a pure and rich mentality, a precious balance between the emotional and the rational...   He manages to perfect his instrumentalist skills to a degree that permitted him to play with ease compositions requiring virtuoso technique," testified Atanas Kourtev, the professor under whose tutelage Girma perfected his skills.

7 Graduate Studies
We learn from Yifrashewa's bio that his graduate studies were made possible by the governments of Germany and the United Kingdom:                     

Girma was privileged to have received scholarships for short-term specialization courses from the British and German Governments, at the Royal Academy of Music in London (1997) and at the Hochschule fur Music Und Theater – Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy – in Leipzig (1999), respectively.

His teacher in Leipzig was Professor Helgcheide Schmidt.

8 Positions
In his bio Girma also lists the professional positions he has held since completing his music studies:                    

With regard to his work experience, on his return to Ethiopia in 1995, he took up a position with the Yared School of Music as a piano teacher where he worked until 2001. He was also working at the Sheraton Addis as a Pianist for one year (2000-2001). Now Girma is involved in his private work to promote Ethiopian and Classical Music throughout
the continent and beyond. On his spare time, he also gives private piano lessons to students of different age groups.

9 Classical CD
Three recordings are mentioned in Yifrashewa's bio, beginning with his classical release in 2001:                   

Girma has so far released two albums: the Shepherd with the Flute (2001) and Meleya Keleme (2003). He has finalized the recording of his third album “Elilta” and is planning to release it soon.

The Addis Tribune article recounts that the actual recording of the 2001 classical CD had been done nearly two years earlier, at the Bavaria Studio in Munich, Germany.  Two days were required for the recording, which was supported by the Germany Embassy. The article notes with pride:                      

In light of dreams coming true, this CD production of classical music has therefore, become the first of its kind ever to be published by an Ethiopian.

10 Works on First CD
The 2001 CD, The Shepherd with the Flute, includes works of Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy, Mozart and Schumann, as well as a new work by the pianist himself.  It is called The Shepherd Flutist (7:14) and is based on The Shepherd with the Flute, a composition of Ashenafi Kebede, an Ethiopian composer.  The CD is available from In-Flight Services of Ethiopian Airlines.

11 Other Works
Girma Yifrashewa composed and arranged the music for the 2003 popular music CD Meleya Keleme.  Additional examples are found in the curriculum vitae:                      

2003: Composed and arranged the music for the album Meleya Keleme.

April 2004: Composed and arranged the music for the songs presented during the
second tour in Africa with a vocalist.

Nov. 2004: Composed, arranged, directed and presented a Children’s Choir
concert under the auspices of the African Child Policy Forum.

12 Preparation
Girma's curriculum vitae explains the steps he took in 2005 to prepare the program of his second classical CD, Elilta (Cry of Joy):

2005: Arranged the Piano piece the Shepherd with the Flute to be played by an orchestra and arranged a new piece, a quartet (Piano, Violin, Cello and Clarinet), entitled My Strong Will, these two being part of the latest CD, Elilta, along with 4 other piano compositions of Ethiopian music presented in the western classical style.

13 Centennial Event
The liner notes also tell of a commemorative concert in 2005:

In 2005, on the occasion of the celebrations of the 100th Anniversary of the commencement of Ethio-German diplomatic relations, Girma was given the unique opportunity to perform with the German Leipzig Youth Symphony Orchestra Beethoven's Piano Concerto no. 2 and Ethiopian music (Girma's own compositions.) The concert was highly praised both in Germany (Leipzig and Berlin) and Addis Ababa.

14 Elilta
The CD Elilta, released in 2006, begins with four works for solo piano: Elilta (7:06), Ambassel (9:40) Chewata (9:31) and Sememen (9:50).  The liner notes explain the first work:

Elilta is the vocal custom by which Ethiopians express their deepest joy.  It is usually used during happy occasions like weddings and other joyous social events.  It is also widely used during church festivities.  Elilta, in this album, is an amalgamation of popular Ethiopian wedding songs and Girma's personal interpretation of this unique sound on the piano.

My Strong Will (7:32) is a work for quartet.  The performers are: Girma Yifrashewa, piano; Doroteya Dimitrova, violin; Lyubomir Nikov, cello; and Mikhail Zhivkov, clarinet.  Ventsi Mitsov orchestrated the final work, The Shepherd with the Flute (8:50)It is performed by the Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Dian Tchobanov,Conductor, and is dedicated to the late Ethiopian composer and Professor Ashenafi Kebede.

15 Tours of Africa

The curriculum vitae of the pianist lists these performances on tour and in concerts in Africa since 2002:                 

2002: International solo tour to 11 African countries (Djibouti, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, Mauritius,  Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, South Africa (Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.

2004: International tour with a vocalist to 10 African countries (Djibouti, Seychelles, South Africa (Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg) Lesotho, Zimbabwe (Harare and Bulawayo), Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi, Burundi, Uganda).

16 Phoenix Prize
During his unprecedented first concert tour of Africa in February and March, 2002 the young Ehiopian pianist received a favorable critique from The Herald newspaper in Harare, Zimbabwe:                 

Girma successfully explores lyric music with a marked taste for romantic and impressionist repertoires.

Recently, he received the Phoenix Prize given in honour of artists contributing to the development of art in Ethiopia.

17 Other Travel
The same document describes tours and concerts in Europe and Australia since 2002:                  

2002 Australia (Melbourne, Ballarat).

2003: Tour in France and Germany to launch and promote the CD Meleya Keleme (with a vocalist, a violinist and a cellist)

2005: Concert held in Germany and Ethiopia with the Leipzig Youth Symphony Orchestra in commemoration the 100th Anniversary of the
commencement of diplomatic relations between Ethiopia and Germany.

Other concerts held in Bulgaria, Italy, United Kingdom.


This page was last updated on March 5, 2022

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