Theodros Mitiku: a fan’s appreciation to a departed saxophonist

Betru Solomon
On December 22, 2013, Theodros Mitiku, a consummate saxophonist, has passed away after an illness in his adopted home of the United States where he lived since 1983.
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The man who knew his call since his elementary school days was among the aspiring musicians of the early seventies. While his music played on the radio and on TV usually as a backdrop to all sorts of programs, for the vast majority of the people it is hard to match his face to his tunes. The obituary that accompanied the news of his death simply put the tired attribution “the legendary”, which hardly defines what Theodros was all about.
Information cobbled together from various sources show that before leaving Ethiopia, Theodros played as a member of the band along with renowned musicians of the day like Seifu Yohannes; his own brother Teshome Mitiku; Mohamud Ahmed, Muluken Melesse, to name just a few. Zula, Soul Ekos and The Ibex are some of the bands he worked with. After he left his country, The Ibex replaced him with another saxophonist and became what is known as the Roha Band which dominated the local music scene of the mid eighties and the nineties.
Theodros largely performed in hotels and clubs in Addis Ababa, he also had a chance to put up gigs in Sudan and Egypt.
His greatest break, however, came with the release of “Hasabé” circa 1990. Although that album is his greatest legacy, information is hard to come by as to when; who he played it with; who distributed it; and even whether it was released on cassette tapes or CDs.
Hasabé is a compilation of enduring Ethiopian classics. It contains nine tracks. Theodros shows his prowess as a saxophonist in Almaz Keharer/Amalele; he lends elegance to a popular Tigrigna song Sikay Zika Liyu; Tilahun Gessesse’s classic Turen Firi has once again been immortalized with the mastery of his craft; probably what makes Theodros stand out from the crowd is his rendition of Begel Enena Anchi, an early seventies song of Frew Hailu; then there is Ambassel – simply breathtaking!
The Silver Spring resident came back to Ethiopia a decade after his exile for a show they put together at Addis Ababa Stadium. When the local TV occasionally shows some of the performances, the tall bespectacled saxophonist is seen at the far left hand side corner doing what he does best.
If one happens to search his name on the web, along with his brief life story, comes the ubiquitous image taken from his last album released around a decade ago entitled “Teddy’s Mood”. The works in that album sound more refined and bring some of the influence he acquired while abroad. The title track is the testament to his maturity.
Some of the rare media appearances of the jazz man have started to come out on the social networks. One shows a happy Theodros during his wedding ceremony in 1993, where the who is who of Ethiopian musicians including the late Tilahun Gessesse performed.
It is good to learn that Theodros Mitiku is survived by a wife and a daughter. While Teddy’s Mood is sure to linger on the minds of his fans long after he’s gone, I hope he will be rewarded with eternal peace in his other life.

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