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Them Mushrooms awarded in Ethiopia

 Them Mushrooms band leader John Katana Harrison (centre) with son Kalume Katana Harrison (left) and brother Billy Sarro Harrison (right) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.(COURTESY.)

Them Mushrooms Band is a happy musical outfit following their Award-Winning in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in December. The band received the ODA Award in Addis Ababa, an award only previously given to outstanding musical outfits for Ethiopian artistes and musical outfits.

It was organised by The MTD in consultation with other Ethiopian Music Authorities who come up with the Order of Awards Programme in that country. It was awarded to the band for their mission to scout, mold, and develop most particularly the Ethiopian artistes to stardom.

The band was also honoured for their service to mankind through their songs, which have been educative and full of moral lessons over the years. And with it, the band members started the New Year with their heads held high!

The band’s passion to nurture talents from all walks of life puts them at par with some of the most respected orchestras on the continent – like the defunct TPOK Jazz Band and Afrisa International Orchestras.

And as they celebrate the 50 years of existence, Them Mushroom songs, prominently sung in Kiswahili and English are still strong and loved in the market in the continent and globally.

“We do our work to all and sundry and without fear or favour. And that’s why we have managed to mentor young artistes from all walks of life and from one region to the other and made them what they are today,” said band leader John Katana Harrison.

He said it was the reason they have always been invited to several national and international functions to entertain dignitaries at different festivals across the globe.

“We have participated in a number of music activities here (Ethiopia) in the past but it was a great experience in this one that honoured us. We are proud of this recognition,” Katana told ‘The Standard’.

It was the seventh edition of the event, which was only restricted to Ethiopian artistes in the past six editions. This time, they had invited artistes from six countries Kenya, Eritrea, Somalia, South Sudan, Djibouti and Rwanda.

Tanzania, regarded as a musical powerhouse and a hub of eminent gospel and secular musicians in the region was not invited. Katana said their band landed the invitation through the Ethiopian Embassy in Nairobi, who informed them of the requirement to travel to Addis Ababa for the gala.

Them Mushrooms Band has had collaborations with several Ethiopian artistes, including Aratso Shimelis, with whom they made a joint effort to sing the numbers ‘Jambo Bwana’ and ‘Hamjambo Ethiopia’ in 1998.

The Kenyan band did their compositions and recordings in Kiswahili and Shimelis did theirs in Amharic, the Ethiopian national language. The recordings were done at the Them Mushrooms Studios in Nairobi the same year (1998).

The two Ethiopian hits sung in Amharic were and are still popular within the Addis Ababa Music Charts, according to Katana.

“They (two hits) are still popular with Ethiopians and has increased our popularity there. It made us earn that recognition. We are still ready to do more with them,” he said.

The Ethiopian Gala was a five-day festival meant to come out with the best songs and the best artistes with different skills in the region. On Ethiopian music culture, Katana said; “They are a people who are always proud of their music and don’t easily adore others from any part of the world”.

And the collaboration between artistes from Kenya and Ethiopia led to the formation of the Association of Kenya Ethiopian Friends (AKEF) in December last year.

“Its formation gave us the leverage to enhance our music and cultural partnerships between the two countries on a tradition to develop some kind of stuff that could uplift our standards in the region,” said Katana.

He said a five-man delegation from Them Mushrooms Band represented them at the festivals.

They were band leader John Katana Harrison, who is a veteran singer, composer, and keyboard specialist, lead guitarist Willy Mazeras, drummer Hassan Mandingo, bass guitarist/backup vocalist Billy Sarro Harrison and saxophonist and backup vocalist Kalume Katana Harrison.

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