“Classical music is music without Africa,” Brian Eno bluntly declared in a 1995 interview published in Wired magazine. “It represents old-fashioned hierarchical structures, ranking, all the levels of control,” he said. An art-rock provocateur, Mr. Eno managed to patronize two cultures in a single blow, fetishizing a free-floating independence in African art that he found lacking in rigid European traditions. 
 Yet if Mr. Eno’s statement oversimplified a complicated global exchange, relatively little evidence indicates that the Western classical tradition has held as much sway in Africa as it has in other parts of the globe, from Venezuela to China. So Girma Yifrashewa, a 45-year-old Ethiopian pianist and composer who performed at the Issue Project Room in Downtown Brooklyn on Saturday night, offers a rare and fascinating example of aesthetic adaptation and convergence.
Precious little information is available in English about Mr. Yifrashewa’s life and work, apart from his Web site and a succinct biography included in the program distributed at the concert. Initially trained on the kirar, an Ethiopian harp, he discovered the piano while in music school in Addis Ababa and pursued formal studies at the Sofia State Conservatory of Music in Bulgaria.
Since returning to Ethiopia in 1995, Mr. Yifrashewa has promoted awareness there of the standard classical repertory, while also writing new pieces that apply European techniques to Ethiopian musical and folkloric sources. His recital here, one of two American concerts mounted with support from the independent record label Unseen Worlds, was split between canonical works and original music.
Warm applause — and, yes, joyful ululations — brought him back for an encore, Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag.”
Girma Yifrashewa performs on June 26 at the Good Shepherd Center in Seattle; (206) 789-1939, waywardmusic.blogspot.com.