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“The more you understand me, the more you understand my music.” Meet Ethiopian electronic artist Mikael Seifu

“I feel like I should get to know you first before we do the interview,” Mikael Seifu tells me. “We should get to know each other first.”

It was an unusual request at the start of an interview, but not an unreasonable one. Sipping beers and chatting over Skype, Seifu and I were separated by seven hours, 7,000 miles and probably much more. On July 1, Seifu will release his Yarada Lij EP via Washington, DC’s new 1432 R imprint, and it represents a debut for both the artist and the label. A seamless fusion of Ethiopian folk music with the rhythms and sonic touchstones from a variety of electronic styles — from house to garage and beyond — the EP is the first dispatch from a unique artist with a singular vision. [Preview the EP below with our premiere of ‘Drkness Iz’]

Our 90-minute conversation was punctuated with a handful of refrains — “You wouldn’t understand…” or “I don’t know how to explain” — but, despite his protestations, Seifu never struggled to illustrate the difference between the cultures in Ethiopia and the United States in his rich baritone. After giving my elevator pitch biography, he asked for more: “I’m still interested in your story, man, because the more I understand you, the more you’ll understand me.” After sharing more of my background, Seifu opened up about his own.

Seifu is 26 years-old, a fact he delivers with some deliberation. “It’s such a mysterious process in Ethiopia. If you ask a person how old they are, they might not know,” he explains. “Age is kinda mystical around here. The older you are, the more respect you’re given in our society, more credit for anything you have to say.”

Read more on Fact.


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