Beautifully intimate home recordings made by an Ethiopian nun reflecting on the idea of exile in the 1970s and 1980s, probably never intended to be heard by anyone but herself, have taken on an astounding universality in 2024.

Since the late 1990s, the French musicologist and producer Francis Falceto has been releasing albums of Ethiopian music from the 50s, 60s and 70s via a series called ‘Éthiopiques’ on the Buda Musique label. Thanks primarily to this venture people across the world now recognise the different sonic characteristics of Ethiopian musicians such as Mulatu Astatke, Mahmoud Ahmed, Gétatchèw Mèkurya and Muluken Melesse. But number 21 in the series was a record that existed as far away as possible as it felt possible to get from Ethiojazz while still being recognisably from that country. And it featured the music of Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru.

If Astatke and Mekuryia turned Ethiopian musical traditions towards jazz, she carried out a similar manoeuvre with classical music. Her compositions have a remarkable fluidity and are full of virtuosic ornamentation, but it is a riddle to assign them to a particular genre and tradition. There is the serenity of Eric Satie in the pentatonic scales, and the delicacy of Debussy. And if one finds something of jazz in them, it is more likely to be in the complex music of Duke Ellington or Mary Lou Williams.