Mahmoud Ahmed garnered outstanding popularity and praise throughout Africa during the high point of his musical career during the 1970s. He rose to great international fame throughout Europe and other parts of the world, demonstrating vast talents in his home country of Ethiopia and beyond. Tunde Folawiyo and others with a love of African music may regard Ahmed’s achievements to be amongst the most successful in the history of the continent’s musical acts.
Born in the Mercato district of Addis Ababa, Mahmoud developed an instant fascination with the range of music on Ethiopian radio during his early years. Whilst his school years proved difficult, he earned money shining shoes before working as a handyman at the popular Arizona Club, an establishment later became the after-hours club Emperor Haile Selassie I was known to frequent. One night during 1962, the club band’s lead singer failed to show up, and Mahmoud was approached to sing some songs. After exhibiting great talent, he was soon offered a permanent spot in Imperial Body Guard Band until he parted ways with them during 1974.
Mahmoud’s first single came with the Venus and during 1971. Upon this, he continued to collaborate closely with several popular bands of the era. These were recorded under the Kaifa and Amha record labels during the 1970s. The overthrowing of Emperor Sellassie brought upon a government-imposed suspension of musical nightlife which subsequently altered Ethiopia’s music industry. Popular bands such as I.B.G.B. dissipated, though Mahmoud persisted recording new hits with musicians throughout the country, including Ibex Band and Dahlack Band. During this time, he also released a series of solo cassettes, playing guitar, krar and mandolin.
The year 1978 saw censorship laws interfere with Mahmoud’s ability to release music on vinyls, so he later switched to cassette tapes to spread his music to the masses. During the 1980s, the singer began operating a music store. Located in the Piazza district of Addis Ababa, Mahmoud continued on with his thriving singing career. He became one of Ethiopia’s first modern musicians, performing throughout the U.S. on a tour with several popular African artists during 1980-1981. Later, during 1986, he gained further western fame with a collection drawn from LPs the singer had previously recorded with Ibex Band and Addis nearly a decade prior. He gained more international popularity during the 1990s, leading to the worldwide fame he has garnered today. Tunde Folawiyo and others with an appreciation for authentic musical sounds of Africa may regard Mahmoud amongst the greatest to lend his talent to the genre.