An unprecedented public demand has event organisers changing their course of live performances slated for New Year's Eve prompted by a call from leaders of a major religious institution to their followers.

The controversial Peace Concert organised by Yisakal Entertainment featured the Nigerian Afrobeat singer Rema with Kuku Sebsbie, Lij Michael, and the up-and-coming talent Addis Legesse during the promotion.

In the midst of the predicament, leaders of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church, with the largest number of followers in the country, urged their disciples to stay away from festive stages. It was trailed by a backlash on social media that eventually led to the cancellation of Rema from performing with major corporate companies such as Coca-Cola suspending their sponsorship.

The initial sponsorship menu with a series of corporate giants such as Ethiopian Airlines, Coca-Cola, MIDROC, NHY Spirit & Wine, Diageo and BGI changed last week, highlighting Dashen Bank, MIDROC, NHY and BGI instead.

The legendary Kuku also backed off from the scene while the management of Sheraton carried on with the program allowing ticket refunds for people who were lured into purchase with the promotion. Two Nigerian singers with relatively lower profiles have made it to the list of performers.

"We've rearranged the lineup," said Helina Sisay, marketing supervisor.

The stage construction at the fountain area began six days prior with transparent tents forecasting the rain all the while maintaining the outdoor vibes for the anticipated 3,000 guests.

The tickets sold at 15,000 Br with unlimited food and drinks will remain the same while 20,000 Br offers VIP privileges that include afterparty entrance at Gaslight Club.

Concurrently, Safaricom Ethiopia postponed its 07 Kimisha concert at the Ghion Hotel for a month. Meedo Records featuring its artists Kassmasse, Wegdayt and Jemberu Demeke along with Yohana, Hewan Gebrewold, Gutu Abera and Asge Dendasho, the event was organised partnering with Safaricom's new mobile money product M-Pesa with a regular ticket sold at 500 Br.

While some organisations opted to change courses on holding grand performances, others have settled for less publicised and tailored performances in relatively smaller venues.

From bazaar venues to grand five-star hotels the city is beaming with late-night events.

Level One Entertainment, run by the renowned 90s musician Shewandagn Hailu is putting on last-minute touches for an evening with an expense that hovers north of four million Birr including performance payments, stage setup and sound system.

Dubbed Wazema Concert, 400 people are expected to attend the evening at the Marriot Hotel, Jomo Kenyatta Street where Veronica Adane, Bizuayehu Demissie and Andualem Gossa will be sharing the stage with Asiyo Band and a DJ.

Tickets are sold for 3,000 Br and 5,000 Br which includes dinner and a front-row seat. St. George and Johnnie Walker sponsor the event.

"It'll have a traditional vibe at the entrance with the 'Abebayesh Woy' dance to channel the holiday spirit," Shewandagn told Fortune.

On Airport Road, Skylight Hotel, the electronic music icon Rophnan will take on the stage set as My Generation and cited as the last performance of his recent album Sidist.

It is organised by Tor Event & Records, who worked with the artist as a public relations and event organiser for the past five years.

Discounted rooms at the Hotel are on the table while the management hopes for additional visibility on its social media platforms and screens.

"We aim for the exposure," said Brook Tizazu, marketing officer of the Hotel.

Close to 5,000 participants are expected to attend Rophnan's performance with midnight fireworks while Arts TV is the media partner broadcasting it live on its platforms.

Sponsored by Walia Beer, Ethiopian Airlines and Tele the first 1,500 tickets were sold out in three days for 900 Br. The second wave is on the market for 1,500 Br including a burger and two drinks while VIP tickets featuring front-row seats and buffet dinner are sold at 4,000 Br.

The partnership with the beer company is part of the 18-month agreement signed around the time that Rophnan dropped his last album Sidist last year.

They backed another performance along with Johnnie Walkera a few kilometres away at Hyatt Regency located on Bole Road and expecting to host 400 people.

"I'm particularly excited for performances featuring holidays," said Haleluya. She will be headlining the eve performance along with Abinet Girma, Filimon Bekele and Zowi Band in the Metro Bar area where ticket prices stand at 1,100 Br and are expected to increase by 300 Br at the gate.

Welcoming the year with live performances has prevailed in the capital for a better part of half a century while millions vicariously experienced it through national television in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Midnight fireworks at Sheraton Addis Hotel headlining the queen of soul Aster Aweke singing Eyoha Abebaye was a customary performance featuring internationally recognised artists and local musicians.

Following the entry to the new millennium, the celebratory venue was taken over by the stage at Millennium Hall. The hallmark event where the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, his wife Azeb Mesfin and renowned businessman Mohammed Al-Amoudi (Sheikh) danced in all white while Sudanese singer Mohammed Wardi performed his signature song Umeral Zuhuur on stage are ardent memories imprinted in the minds of many.

Initially built by Midroc Investment Group to celebrate the Ethiopian Millennium, the venue is currently under the supervision of the Addis Park administration, primarily booked to host holiday bazaars.

Known for his engagements in hosting such grand concerts of the 1990s, Serawit Fikre who has been in the industry for over two decades has observed the music industry evolving over the years introducing different genres.

Back in time, he recalls Emperor Haile Selassie I endorsing a special New Year celebration at the National Theatre with performers and renowned artists such as Tilahun Gesesse releasing their album.

Although diversified in locations and genres, Serawit believes the events bring back memories with elevated expressions.

"The number of artists has grown as well," he said.

Michael Yemewedeh, 24, works as an IT officer in one of the financial institutions in Addis Abeba. The increasing number of events used to excite the music enthusiast when he was in college. Now he chooses performances based on the budget and quality of content.

"I'm not paying over a grad for mediocrity," he told Fortune.

Although he considers himself one of the die-hard fans of Rophnan, he is opting to pass the concert obeying the command of his religious leaders.

"My whole crew is staying at home this time," He told Fortune. "We are fasting."

PUBLISHED ON Sep 10,2023 [ VOL 24 , NO 1219]

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