Aster Aweke is an Ethiopian singer who lives in the United States. She is sometimes referred to as “Ethiopia’s Aretha Franklin”, Aweke was born in 1961 in Gondar, Ethiopia and was raised in the capital city of Addis Ababa. Her father was a senior civil servant in the Imperial government. By the age of 13 she was determined to become a musician, and started her career at Hager Fikir Theatre in Addis Ababa. 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.
Aweke’s distinct style has been influenced by other Ethiopian singers such as Bizunesh Bekele. Launching a solo career, she was encouraged by musical entrepreneur Ali Tango, who financed and released five cassettes and two singles of her music. By 1981, she had become disillusioned by Ethiopia’s oppressive political climate following the death of iconic leader Haile Selassie and relocated to the United States. Temporarily settling in the Bay Area of California with plans to pursue an education; within two years, she settled in Washington, D.C., one of the largest Ethiopian expat communities in the country. Here she became increasingly popular within the Ethiopian community, performing in restaurants and clubs. She also remains popular in Ethiopia; in 1997 she performed in Addis Ababa for a crowd of over 50,000 people. More recently, on the 9th of May 2009, Aster performed in front of a crowd of 10,000 during the “Peace through Unity, Unity through Music” concert in Addis Ababa at the Millenium Hall, alongside other Ethiopian artists Gossaye and Pras (of the Fugees).