Tommy T was born and raised in Ethiopia's capital city, Addis Ababa. ''There was always music in our house,'' Tommy recalls. ''When I was five, my older brother Zelalem got an acoustic guitar from my father. By the time I was six I could pick up a guitar and play what my brothers were playing.''
Tommy had no intention of becoming a musician, but when his brother Henock moved to Washington DC, Tommy followed. ''I looked up to him as a brother and a bass player. After he sent a copy of his first album to us in Ethiopia, I started playing acoustic guitar like a bass. When I came to the States, I got a real bass. There are over 200,000 Ethiopians in the DC metro area, so I was able to make a living playing in Ethiopian bands.''
Tommy completed a degree while playing in bands three or four nights a week. He played in Ethiopian bands, and later started a reggae band called ADOLA, which backed many well known Ethiopian artists such as Aster Aweke and Gigi to name a few. Tommy was also interested in other styles of music including R&B, hip-hop, and neo-soul. He worked with Wayna Wondwossen who was recently nominated for a best urban performance Grammy for her song ''Lovin' U (Music)'' and produced a couple of tracks on her Moments of Clarity album with his friend Abegasu Shiota. While collaborating on a project with guitarist Eran Tabib, Tommy heard Gogol Bordello was looking for a bass player familiar with international grooves.
His years with Gogol inspired Tommy to develop The Prester John Sessions, another band with a global outlook. The reggae band he and his friend Zedicus (Zakki Jawad) started in DC had evolved into The Abyssinian Roots Collective; they helped Tommy bring The Prester John Sessions to life. ''I believe in music without boundaries,'' Tommy says. ''Music should be inclusive, not exclusive. We should use sounds from everywhere to create a universal vibe. The music business isn't friendly to that kind of thing, but the people who hear it respond to it well. Gogol is a rock band, but the sound is global. People who love music know the best music is created without boundaries and limitations. The Prester John Sessions take that idea to the next level.''