Background information
Birth name Ejigayehu Shibabaw
Origin Ethiopia
Genre(s) Ethiopian music
Instrument(s) Voice
Years active 1997 - present
Website Gigi Music
Notable instrument(s)

Ejigayehu Shibabaw, or Gigi as she is popularly known, is one of the most successful contemporary Ethiopian singers worldwide. Coming from an ancient tradition of song originating in the Ethiopian Church, she has brought the music of Ethiopia to wider appreciation and developed it in combination with a wide variety of styles.

Recording career[]

Gigi was born and raised in the north-west Ethiopia small town called Chagni. She lived in Kenya for a few years before moving to San Francisco in about 1998. She recorded two albums for the expatriate Ethiopian community, but it was her 2001 album, titled simply Gigi, that brought her widespread attention. She had been noticed by Palm Pictures owner Chris Blackwell, who had years earlier introduced reggae to the mainstream through his former label, Island Records. Blackwell and Gigi's producer (and later, husband) Bill Laswell, decided to use American jazz musicians (including Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Pharoah Sanders and others) to accompany Gigi on the new album.

The result was a fusion of contemporary and traditional sounds. The album was a critical success internationally and generated controversy in her home country for such a radical break with Ethiopian popular music.[1] This release was soon followed by Illuminated Audio, an ambient dub style remix of the album by Laswell.

Recent releases[]

2003 saw the release of Zion Roots, under the band name Abyssinia Infinite. Bill Laswell played guitar and keyboard (instead of his usual bass), and several of Gigi's family members contributed vocals. The album was a return to a mainly acoustic sound for Gigi, incorporating instruments such as the krar and the tabla. The track "Gole" is in Agewña, the language of Gigi's father's village.

Gigi's voice may be heard in the Hollywood film Beyond Borders (2003), in which Angelina Jolie portrays an aid worker during the 1984 - 1985 famine in Ethiopia.

She released her sixth album, Gold and Wax on Palm Pictures, in 2006.


Template:Disputed-section Gigi has been criticised by some conservatives in Ethiopia for breaking out of the traditional role of women in the Ethiopian Church. For instance, the song "Adwa" on her album Gigi is a cry of mourning for soldiers who died in the Second Italo-Abyssinian War. This type of song is traditionally sung by men in Ethiopia.


  • Tsehay, 1997
  • One Ethiopia, 1998
  • Gigi (Guramayle), 2001
  • Illuminated Audio, 2003
  • Abyssinia Infinite: Zion Roots, 2003
  • Gold & Wax, 2006

Featured on:

  • Future 2 Future by Herbie Hancock
  • Sacred System: Dub Chamber 4 (Book of Exit) by Bill Laswell
  • Realize by Karsh Kale
  • Live at Stern Grove by Tabla Beat Science
  • Enter The Chicken by Buckethead
  • Radioaxiom by Bill Laswell and Jah Wobble
  • Putumayo Presents: One World, Many Cultures Compilation


  1. Falceto, Francis. Alfanalech - Gigi Between Past and Future (HTML) (English). Les nouvelles d'Addis. Retrieved on 2007-07-12. “What is new with Gigi and Bill Laswell, is the extremely modernist bent of an enterprise which marks, like it or not, a radical break with the usual routine and the decadence prevalent for the past quarter-century.”

External links[]