Berhana Explores Ethio-Jazz Influences in NPR Tiny Desk Performance + The Nomad’s Tour Begins 4/11

Photo by Girma Berta
February 7 2024


“Berhana and members of the Ethio Cali band showcase their authentic take on East African rhythms.”

NPR Music

“A cosmic aria a la The Neptunes.”


“His latest musical triumph.”


“Icy cool while simultaneously nice and warm.”


“Impressive…a blend of sonic elevation and cultural exploration.”


Gone (Abebe Bikila)
Like a Habit
Break Bread
The Nomad’s Dream
Don’t Go
Going Home

Amén የዘላን ህልም (The Nomad’s Dream) is out now, buy/stream it here.

Last year, Berhana delivered the sprawling, revelatory Amén የዘላን ህልም (The Nomad’s Dream), a high-concept meditation on heritage, romance, family, and individuality. BET described it as “his latest musical triumph…featuring instrumentals and melodies rooted in the Horn of Africa while joining forces with more modern and direct R&B production,” while Wonderland said it’s “impressive…a blend of sonic elevation and cultural exploration.” Listen to Amén የዘላን ህልም (The Nomad’s Dream) here.

Today, a selection of songs from Amén are brought to life via Berhana’s NPR Tiny Desk Concert, which see’s the R&B maestro backed by members of ETHIO CALI, the African jazz ensemble who’s sublime sound is inspired by the golden age of Ethiopian music of the 60’s and 70’s, filtered through the lens of Los Angeles. The performance includes musicians Kahlil Cummings (percussion), David Shimon Goodman (bass), Randal Fisher (tenor sax), Evan Christopher Greer (drums), Nadav Peled (guitar), Glenn Kelly Holdaway (trumpet), Kibrom Birhane (keys), and the background vocal group of Josef Lamercier, Xenia Karungu, and Tasan Thompson. Watch Berhana’s NPR Tiny Desk Concert here.

Berhana is also embarking on The Nomad’s Tour, a run of North American headlining dates kicking off this April with support from California-based artist, producer, and songwriter Asha Imuno. Full dates below, and tickets are on-sale here.

Across Amén የዘላን ህልም (The Nomad’s Dream), Berhana — pulling from his own experience as a first generation immigrant — takes listeners on a journey of personal and romantic maturation, searching for connection with his ancestral land whilst simultaneously forging a meaningful life in America. Through trips to Addis Ababa and deep dives at Ethiopian record stores, he began to foster a deeper appreciation for his culture — and for the East African diaspora at large.

The project is the result of that self-discovery: a multilayered triumph of sounds, textures, experiences, and indeed lessons to be absorbed by any child of the diaspora and beyond. Cinematically-paced and vividly-colored, the album heavily incorporates Ethio-jazz melodies and instrumentation while also pulling from 90s neo-soul, vintage house, modern Afrobeat, and the resurgent ongoing conversation between modern hip-hop and jazz music.

Lead single “Gone” — which LA tastemaker station KCRW described as “icy cool, while simultaneously nice and warm” — pays tribute to Abebe Bikila, the Ethiopian Olympic marathoner who, while running barefoot, won Gold medals in back-to-back Olympics in the 1960s. Listen here, and watch Berhana break down “Gone” in depth for BET’s #Unboxed series here.

Rolling Stone deemed “Like A Habit” a Song You Need To Know — the track falls somewhere between the momentous push-and-pull of vintage vocal house and the lush soundscapes of Janet Jackson’s more club-centric Y2K-era hits. Watch the “Like A Habit” video here.

Meanwhile, Clash described “Break Bread” as “a cosmic aria a la The Neptunes.” Listen to “Break Bread” here.

Alongside the album, Berhana released a short film The Nomad’s Dream, a work that is in its own right as layered and mesmerizing as the music it accompanies. Film screenings have were held in London, New York, Los Angeles and indeed Addis Ababa, all to critical reception. Inspiration for the film was taken from 1966 student film Have A Coke, which was put together by Ethiopian students studying at UCLA. Watch The Nomad’s Dream short film here.

Berhana first entered public consciousness in 2016 with the self titled Berhana EP which was acclaimed across the board, praised for its immersive nature and deeply personal insights into the life of a twenty-something creative. In 2019, Berhana released his debut album HAN, which taking cues from Midnight Marauders by A Tribe Called Quest, included a narrator interwoven throughout and was praised for the “immersive, documentary-style quality” (FADER) of its music as well as its “kaleidoscopic blend of pop, R&B, electronica and psychedelic soul” (Essence).

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