In the 60s and 70s, Hailu Mergia was a famous musician in Africa. But famine in the 80s forced him to move to the US. Now he’s poised for a comeback.
As a young man living in Addis Ababa during the swinging 60s, Hailu Mergia was a superstar. The Ethiopian capital city was a bustling cosmopolis where art and culture flourished amid the country’s uneasy quest for independence.
His jazz and funk band, The Walias, performed for the domestic and international elite at the then-prestigious Hilton Hotel’s music club, which granted residencies to Ethiopia’s hottest bands. Crowds of dignitaries and foreign diplomats, Hollywood movie stars, famous musicians like Duke Ellington and Alice Coltrane, and important African figures like Manu Dibango would flock to the hotel to dance and jam until sunrise.
THIS IS HOW quickly transportation has changed in urban America. In July 2010, a service called UberCab went live in San Francisco—that’s fewer than eight years ago. Washington, DC’s Capital Bikeshare, the country’s largest bike-sharing program, really got off the ground in 2010. Austin became the first US city to host car-sharing service Car2Go a few months into the same year. Lyft launched in SF in June 2012.
That’s a ton more travel options in a short time, most of them enabled by the explosion of the smartphone and fostered somewhere in the Bay Area. Some have indubitably made it easier, cheaper, and safer for residents to travel through dense cities. But for city governments that feel responsible for getting all their residents around, the sudden burst of diversity has confused the whole picture.
Uber and Lyft may have driven into a problem, at least in Las Vegas.
For years, the city’s taxi drivers raged about losing fares to upstart competitors with better technology and cheaper rates. For years, Uber and Lyft capitalized on this to cannibalize not just the taxi industry, but each other as well. There are no winners in war. And although the biggest loser has, to date, been the taxi industry, Uber and Lyft haven’t exactly won, either. By refusing to play by the same set of rules, each seems to have backed itself into a corner and given taxi drivers the upper hand once again.