Ejigayehu Shibabaw, known by her stage name Gigi, is one of the most successful contemporary Ethiopian singers worldwide. She has performed the music of Ethiopia in combination with a wide variety of other genres, often in collaboration with her husband Bill Laswell, a bassist and producer.
Gigi was born and raised in Chagni in northwestern Ethiopia. She has described learning traditional songs from an Ethiopian Orthodox priest in the family home. She lived in Kenya for a few years before moving to San Francisco in about 1998.
Gigi recorded two albums for the expatriate Ethiopian community, but it was her 2001 album, titled simply Gigi, that brought her widespread attention. She had been noticed by Palm Pictures owner Chris Blackwell, who had years earlier introduced reggae to the mainstream through his former label, Island Records. Blackwell and Gigi’s producer (and later, husband) Bill Laswell, decided to use American jazz musicians (including Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Pharoah Sanders, and others) to accompany Gigi on the album.