Mulatu Astatke honored by Berklee
Ethiopian jazz giant Mulatu Astatke has been honored by the world-renowned Berklee College of Music yesterday. Mulatu, often dubbed as the father of Ethiopian jazz, was presented honorary doctor of music degree from the university’s president Roger H. Brown at 2012 commencement. Mulatu told journalists over the phone that he was elated to have received this honor and this was a magical moment in his long career. Speaking hours after ceremony, the jazz legend said the accolade is recognition of not only his achievement but also his country’s rich and diverse musical heritage.
Mulatu delivered the commencement address to the graduating class and an estimated crowd of more than 4,000 guests at the Agganis Arena, according the university’s website. In his address, Mulatu, Berklee’s first African graduate, thanked the college for opening doors for musicians from developing nations, and encouraged graduates to think outside the box. “At Berklee, I was immersed in a motivating and creative academic environment where Ethio-jazz was conceived,” said Mulatu. “You now have the skills and the education to create new innovations in music . . . You are a selected few with a special gift, and we all have great expectations for you.” In his acceptance speech, Mulatu made a point of mentioning the different peoples and nationalities of Ethiopia whose extensive musical heritage has been his primary source of inspiration.
Rock and Roll Hall of Famers the Eagles and 27-time Grammy Award winner Alison Krauss were also awarded the honorary degrees. Some of the college’s most accomplished students presented a tribute to the honorees with performances of music associated with their careers and two of the honorees performed. Backed by the Berklee Gospel Ensemble, Krauss performed the traditional Appalachian song “Down by the River to Pray.” Mulatu played vibraphone with students on his composition “Yakermew Sew.”
Mulatu was accompanied by his wife, Woizero Konjit and by his two sons. Mesert Mebrate, a prominent actress who is engaged Mickey Mulatu, one of the musician’s sons, accompanied the artist on this important occasion.