When she arrived in her homeland in 1997 for the first time since she'd left in 1981, Ethiopian-born and Washington, D.C.-based songstress Aster Aweke was greeted by thousands of loyal followers awaiting her plane. During the month-long tour that followed, Aweke performed before more than 80,000 people and showed that she remains one of Ethiopia's best-loved performers.
Aweke has been equally successful throughout the world. Her second album, Kabu, spent four weeks in the top position on the CMJ New Music Charts, and was in the Top Ten of Billboard's World Music Charts for ten weeks in 1990.
A native of Gandor, a small town near Lake Tara, Aweke was raised in the capital city of Addis Ababa. The daughter of senior civil servant in the Imperial government, Aweke was determined to become a musician by the age of 13. By her late teens, she was singing in Addis Ababa clubs and hotels with such bands as the Continental Band, Hotel D'Afrique Band, Shebele Band, and the Ibex Band (before they became the internationally known Roha Band). Launching a solo career, Aweke was encouraged by musical entrepreneur Ali Tango, who financed and released five cassettes and two singles of her music. By 1981, Aweke had become disillusioned by Ethiopia's oppressive political climate and relocated to the United States. Temporarily settling in the Bay Area of California with plans to pursue an education; within two years, Aweke continued on to Washington, D.C., the site of the largest Ethiopian population in the U.S. After building a following with her performances in local Ethiopian restaurants, Aweke toured the U.S. and Europe in 1985.