In Minnesota, Artist Fayise Abrahim Mixes Ethiopian Music with Jazz and Soul

Fayise Abrahim says that her art and her work both draw inspiration from her southwest Minnesota upbringing. She plays the krar in her unique blend of traditional Ethiopian music with jazz and soul. (Photo credit: Hector E. Roberts)

The Globe

Worthington native honors culture with music

“Writing is so nurturing and life-giving that I can’t imagine not doing it,” Abrahim said.

MINNEAPOLIS — Worthington High School graduate Fayise Abrahim will debut as a music artist next weekend at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis.

Abrahim describes her music style as “traditional Ethiopian mixed with jazz and soul.” She sings and plays the krar… and leads a band that includes guitar, drums, bass and vocals.

Abrahim didn’t enter the music scene formally until 2018, but she has been a poet for more than half her life. She began writing poetry in eighth grade.

“The poetry writing has been part of the music writing,” Abrahim said.

By college, Abrahim said, “My professors and friends told me I needed to start considering myself a writer.

“Writing is so nurturing and life-giving that I can’t imagine not doing it,” she added.

As a poet, Abrahim has completed a number of fellowships and been published in several places, including Yellow Medicine Review’s Spring 2019 issue and the Break Beat Poets Anthology Volume 2: Black Girl Magic. She is the first poet to have her work inscribed on a Minneapolis sidewalk; an Abrahim poem is found at the corner of 26th Street and East Franklin.

Abrahim is working to complete a poetry manuscript for publication.

A 2010 WHS graduate, Abrahim went to college for sociology and ethnic studies. Passion for her Ethiopian heritage brought Abrahim back to her parents’ native country, where she learned from village elders about music and traditions of her culture. She even visited Sisay Begena School of Music in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for instruction on the krar.

“Now that I’m back, I’m trying to find more ways to stay involved,” she said.

One of the ways she is involved with Ethiopian culture is by recording her parents’ memoirs of growing up in Ethiopia and immigrating to the United States as refugees.

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