Jano's band breakup was very difficult for me - Guitarist Michael Hailu


Michael Hailu, the renowned guitarist, and composer, talks about his journey to become one of the greatest musicians in Ethiopia. Michael Hailu has been in the music industry for a decade. A fan of Jennifer Batten, guitarist for Michael Jackson, he has worked with a slew of known local artists, including Teddy Afro, Michael Belayneh, and Dawit Tsige. With a unique sound, unmatched ability to play the guitar, and his membership in Jano Band, he has become a household name.


Jano Band is known to have been discovered by Bill Laswell, the producer behind world-famous stars, including the Irish band U2 and Ethiopia’s own, Gigi. Michael reflects with Fortune writer, Samson Berhane on his music, on the music industry, on Jano Band, his family, and looks ahead. Guitar virtuoso Michael Hailu, a long-time member and musical director of Jano Band, has always marched to his drum, following his musical journey. Michael is gaining wide critical acclaim and attracting legions of fans. 


He has played a key role in the local music scene as a producer of many popular local artists such as Michael Belayneh, Teddy Afro, and Abinet Agonafir. With his signature guitar close by, and his warm, open personality in full display, the 28-year-old shares his experiences with SAMSON BERHANE, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER, inside his studio, about music, life, and how he became interested in playing the guitar by watching a video of Michael Jackson and his guitarist. With his unique sound and contribution to the advancement of Ethiopian music, it is easy to predict why he is indeed a star in the making.


What inspired you to become an artist? I have loved the sound of a guitar since my younger days. I discovered Jennifer Batten's play at a Michael Jackson concert and I was impressed. How could I not be that, when I was discovering something unique and beautiful? For the longest time, playing with my guitar became my best memorable hours well spent.


Then I also discovered other kinds of music, including gospel and popular music. For me, music is something that takes you away to moments that mean something to you. It takes me back to the days I would walk into a church and receive some peace of mind. As far as popular music is concerned, I first became a member of a group, founded by popular artist Dawit Tsige.


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