R E U P L O A D
Abyssinia Infinite, Featuring Ejigayehu “Gigi” Shibabaw, Brings Ethiopian Music Back to its Zion Roots
The overthrow of Ethiopia's Emperor Haile Selassie in a “creeping coup” organized by his own military began two decades of chaotic rule. Under the Derg regime, a curfew was imposed which drove live musicians to prison and unemployment. For a twenty-year period of time, horns and live bands were replaced with synthesizers and drum machines. The release Zion Roots (Network Medien) on December 9, 2003, Abyssinia Infinite, featuring Ejigayehu “Gigi” Shibabaw, brings back live instrumentation and experimentation to Ethiopian music. This album with acoustic instruments and traditional songs is a return to a classic sound—it picks up right where music left off in the mid-’60s through mid-’70s.
“Ethiopians believe that when Zion is mentioned in the bible they are speaking about Ethiopia,” Gigi explains. With that in mind, the album, Zion Roots, is exactly what the name implies: music rooted deep in Ethiopian culture. On this latest concept project, Gigi—who first came to fame in the West on her self-titled album on Palm Pictures—was able to realize her longstanding dream of melding elements of East and West African elements into the music of her home country. "This traditional project is something that I wanted to do to keep in touch with the music of Ehtiopia. This does not represent me as a solo artist but more me introducing Ethiopian traditional music in different settings, as a concept project. As an artist signed to Palm Pictures, my next solo album Gold & Wax is due early 2004."
Gigi’s experience in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church has largely influenced the sound of Abyssinia Infinite’s CD. Although this album contains no songs from the Ethiopian church, the phrasing and style of the traditional songs are very similar. The soul and vibrato characteristics of church music of Ethiopia are similar to American church music.
Abyssinia Infinite chose the songs for this album to convey a traditional spirit. Aba Alem Lemenea is a spiritual song written about a world that's peaceful and loving. Gole is another traditional song that puts new words to a time-honored melody. It is sung half in Amharic and half in an older language called Agewña—a language that very few people speak with the exception of Gigi’s father’s tribe.
Abyssinia Infinite uses traditional instruments such as the kirar—which is referred to as King David’s harp in the Bible and is perhaps one of the oldest surviving East African instruments—and the washint—a simple bamboo flute. The band is composed of prominent players in the world music community including the magical Senegalese percussionist Aiyb Dieng, the virtuoso tabla-player Karsh Kale, the guitarist/accordionist Tony Cedras (known for his work on Paul Simon's Graceland project), the Ethiopian saxophonist Moges Habte, and world music producer/musician Bill Laswell, with a rare performance on acoustic guitar.