Show #7: Bands Influenced by Groovy Ethiopian Sounds

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A few weeks ago Rhythm Planet did a feature on the colossal 28 volume Éthiopiques collection covering jazz and pop music from the 1970s and 1980s. Now we look at some modern groups, both Ethiopian and Western, that have been inspired or smitten by the classics.

We start (and finish) with the Either/Orchestra, a big jazz band let by sax player Russ Gershon. After that a cut from the 2008 album Bole 2 Harlem, which features the late Tigist Shibabaw, younger sister of the popular singer Gigi Shibabaw. The album pairs Bole with Harlem as a musical and cultural epicenters.  We continue with a great song originally from the album Nuyorican Soul called “I Am the Black Gold of the Sun”, here rendered by a young Ethiopian pianist named Samuel Yirga; it features French singer Nicolette–who sang the great Massive Attack song “Three“–with the Cuban vocal group Creole Choir of Cuba. Dub Colossus follows, a brainchild of Britisher Nick Page, founder of Transglobal Underground. After that music from the Boston-based Debo Band, which toured the States in the summer of 2012 (in LA it was at the Levitt Pavilion).  The magnetic Gigi sings “Salam” with a driving horn section typical of Ethiopian music; horns are a vital part of the genre, coming from military marching bands. We follow that with more Dub Colossus, the track “Guagigna”, probably the most far-out and wild cut in the whole bunch. A ballad from young Ethiopian singer Minyeshu, a multi-talented dancer, singer, and choreographer based in Amsterdam. We wrap up the show with a live jam session from the 2004 Ethiopian Jazz Festival in Addis Ababa, again featuring the fearless Either/Orchestra, teaming up with Mulatu Astatke and other top Addis talent.

Ethiopian music is not for everybody, but it has special flavor and tang. It has a certain pentatonic hipness that gives it strong appeal, especially for other musicians and bands. And whereas the series Éthiopiques has its roots back in the 1960s and 70s, these new bands and albums prove that the appeal of those classic tracks has not diminished one bit.

Here is a beguiling cut from the Either/Orchestra performing with sultry singer Tsedenia Markos live in Ethiopia.

Here is an energetic number performed by Minyeshu Kifle Tedla.

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Rhythm Planet Playlist: 6/6/13

  1. Ether/Orchestra | Thirty Five | Mood Music For Time Travellers | Accurate
  2. Bole 2 Harlem | HomeBole 2 Harlem: Vol. 1 | Sounds of the Mushroom
  3. Samuel Yirga | I Am the Black Gold of the Sun | Guzo | Real World
  4. Dub Colossus | Tizita Dub | A Town Called Addis | Real World
  5. Debo Band | Akale WubeDebo Band | Next Ambience
  6. Gigi | SalamGold & Wax | Palm
  7. Dub Colossus | Guragigna | Addis Through the Looking Glass | Real World
  8. Minyeshu | Tileshign Athidg | Dire Dawa | Me and My Other Records
  9. Either/Orchestra | Feqer Aydelem Wey | Éthiopques Vol. 20 | Buda Musique