Thursday, October 31, 2013

Jano - Ertale [2012] [ethiopia]

JANO - An Ethiopian rock explosion melodies, massive bass and drum poly rhythms, metal guitar assault, soaring vocals, dense electronic textures.

A devastating energy blast! So far, there has been nothing this powerful and versatile that might be associated with "word music". African futurism at its most liberated and intense, a hard rock element unheard of in Ethiopian music, until now, its the New Rock Revolution.

JANO BAND - Erikum

The ensemble cast drips with talent. Guitarist Michael Hailu supplies the force with huge metal riffs and a detailed harmonic sense. The dual vocals of Debekelu Tafesse and Hailu Amerga are complete contrast with each other. Back and forth, one after another, creating a completely unexpected dynamic that never let's up.

The vision of this music is awe-inspiring.The raw talent, energy and power of the group is overwhelming. It is a musical earth quake the likes of which we haven't seen in generation.the next generation of world music has arrived with a mighty explosion. Stand and behold!

The tracks on JANO's debut release are a tour de force of Ethiopian music reinvented with the intense energy of a rock band and the barley restrained fury of a youth already seeking redemption-a clear parallel to the smoldering volcano in northeast Ethiopia that is namesake for the album, Ertale.

ERTALE was produced by the legendary producer and musician Bill Laswell who has worked with an extraordinary range of musicians, artists and thinkers around the world. In the Americans Africa, The Caribbean, Europe, The middle East, India, China and Japan.

JANO was created and managed by Trio Entertainment, which was founded by Addis Gessese (Ziggy Marely, Teddy Afro and Gigi) and Ermiyas Amelga, Founder Chairman and CEO of the Access Group of Companies. JANO is destined to conquer the world.

This is not just an introduction to a new music but to the history of a diverse culture unlike any other. Ethiopia, the only African Country not to be colonized by foreign powers, champions of the battle of Adwa.

Enjoy JANO band!

Jano - 01 - Ethiopiawit Konjo (4:07)
Jano - 02 - Yigermal (4:59)
Jano - 03 - Irasen (6:21)
Jano - 04 - Ayrak (5:05)
Jano - 05 - Irrekum (5:06)
Jano - 06 - Gude (6:53)
Jano - 07 - Mariye (6:55)
Jano - 08 - Mehed Mehed (6:28)
Jano - 09 - Tazebkut (7:06)
Jano - 10 - Anchi Hegere (4:04)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Muluken Melesse - 3+1 [ethiopia]

       Muluken Melesse (born 1954) was an Ethiopian singer and drummer who later abandoned his music career to involve himself in the Pentecostal Church. Melesse was born in Gojjiam, a province in Northern Ethiopia. When he was six, he moved to Addis Ababa with his uncle. In 1966, aged 12, he began his musical career singing at night clubs and in groups founded by night club owners, with his first song to be performed on stage, Enate Sitewoldgne Metchi Amakerchign.

       His first song to be recorded on vinyl was Hedetch Alu, which was recorded in 1972 by Girma Bèyènè (piano and arrangements), Tesfa Mariam Kidane (tenor sax), Tekle Adhanonm (guitar), Fekade Amde Meskel (bass), Tesfay Mekonnen (drums) and Melesse himself. In 1975, he recorded his second song, Wetetie Mare and Ete Endenesh Gedawo, with 'Equator Band', and a year later in 1976 he recorded what was to be his last song, Ney Ney Wodaje. While the remained of the band emigrated to the United States of America, Melesse remained to join the Pentecostal Church in the 1980s, having ended his musical career.

      "In the early 1980 Muluken accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his saviour and Lord. From his own testimony, he chose to follow Jesus Christ completely by leaving the world behind. Since then He served the Lord with all his heart. 

       Muluken was approached by people a lot of time to return to the music world but he preferred to be with the people of the Lord and minister to them. Muluke is married and resides in Washington DC metropolitan area. He ministers by traveling all over the world.


Muluken Melesse - Nanu Nanu Ney  [with Dahlak Band]

01. Muluken Melesse - Nanu Nanu Ney (6:05)
02. Muluken Melesse - Wodijesh Nebere (8:03)
03. Muluken Melesse - Aynuma (4:02)
04. Muluken Melesse - Embuwa Bey Lamitu (6:48)
05. Muluken Melesse - Nafkote (5:55)
06. Muluken Melesse - Kemekem (6:37)
07. Muluken Melesse - Gedamay (5:14)
08. Muluken Melesse - Yene Konjo (6:25)
09. Muluken Melesse - Bematebuwa Ledagni (6:13)
10. Muluken Melesse - Minew Hode Baba (6:39)

Nanu Nanu Ney -   No. 2  
album with Dahlak Band Arranged by Dawit Yifru And Muluken Melesse,

Piano - Dawit Yifru,
Ledguitar - David Kassa, 
Bassguitar - Abera Fiyesa, 
Drum - Tesfaye Tesmma ,
Saxaphone - Tilaye Gebre, 
Trumpet - Shimeles Beyene.

Produced by Electra Music shope


Muluken Melesse - Lakiligne [with Dahlak Band]

01. Muluken Melesse - Lakilign (8:15)
02. Muluken Melesse - Minew Kerefede (8:22)
03. Muluken Melesse - Zebenay (6:06)
04. Muluken Melesse - Gelayewa (7:24)
05. Muluken Melesse - Fikir Teru Engida (9:24)
06. Muluken Melesse - Baynish Lilefibet (7:07)
07. Muluken Melesse - Goferesh (5:19)
08. Muluken Melesse - Bergit Agegnish Woy (9:21)

Lakilegne - No. 5 album with Dahlak Band, 

Arranged by Dawit Yifru and David Kassa 
Lyrics Alemtsehay Wedajo,
Melody Muluken Melesse and Halilayasues Amare,

Piano - Dawit Yifru,
Ledguitar - David Kassa, 
Bassguitar - Abera Fiyesa, 
Drums - Tesfaye Tesmma 
Saxaphone - Tilaye Gebre,
Trumpet - Shimeles Beyene.

Produced by Central Electronics Music Shope

Muluken Melesse - Wuha Welawaye  [with Ethio Star Band]

01. Muluken Melesse - Wuha Welawaye (7:09)
02. Muluken Melesse - Tizaz Begelaye (7:20)
03. Muluken Melesse - Demam Gonie (7:01)
04. Muluken Melesse - Kuretilign Hode (7:05)
05. Muluken Melesse - Zeb Lekum (5:25)
06. Muluken Melesse - Lewozawoz (6:44)
07. Muluken Melesse - Atekebdegnim (6:09)
08. Muluken Melesse - Endet Lechalew (5:41)

Wuha Welawaye   -   No. 7 album  with Ethio Star Band 

Arranged by Muluken Melesse and Mulatu Astatke 

Ledguitar - Mengsha Teffra, 
Bassguitar - David Kassa,
Drums - Berhane Yosef, 
Keyboards - Abegasu Kebrework,
Conga,Keyboard,Drums - Mulatu Astatke,
Saxophone - Girma Woldemichael, 
Saxophone - Teshome Deneke,
Trumpet - Shimeles Beyene.

Muluken Melesse - Muluken Melesse vol 1 [1999]

   R   E   U   P   L   O   A   D   

01. Muluken Melesse - Menew Keferede (8:18)
02. Muluken Melesse - Nanu Ney (6:24)
03. Muluken Melesse - Hodenew (7:54)
04. Muluken Melesse - Akale Gena (6:28)
05. Muluken Melesse - Sewenetua (7:49)
06. Muluken Melesse - Gelayewa (8:18)
07. Muluken Melesse - Wodejesh Neber (5:35)
08. Muluken Melesse - Demam Gone (6:35)
09. Muluken Melesse - Embwa Belew (3:59)
10. Muluken Melesse - Tenesh Kelbe Lay (4:28)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Minyeshu - Dire Dawa [2008] [ethiopia]

       A train line winds from Djibouti to the Ethiopian capital Addis Abeba. On this track lies Dire Dawa, a city raised on both spirit and turmoil planted on a track that heads on to a higher plateau. Dire Dawa is the name of Minyeshu's birthplace.

       Minyeshu left home to join the Ethiopian National Theater in Addis at an early age. Her opinionated and resolute nature created conflict enough to force her from her homeland, and ultimately to the awaiting platforms of Europe. Minyeshu is a stunning performer. Her voice sings and her body dances the stories of centuries of tribal development and strife, the plight of the refugee, and the vibrations that resonate through every human soul.

       This CD is the registration of Minyeshu's arrival in Western Civilization. She roots herself seamlessly with western musical elements to create an enchanting new genre: this Ethiopian music has depth, dynamic and emotional nuance; this Western music has primal energy, exotic heritage and a natural ground shaking pulse. 

1. An Ode to Friends Who Have Passed On] Halafi Nen Kealem (Serra) [Life and Death
2. Wosenku [I Have Decided]
3. Selam Lehtsanat [Peace for the Children]
4. Tileshign Athidg
5. Dire Dawa [Home of My Earliest Memories]
6. Afrika [Africa I Must Tell You This]
7. Like-Neh [Love Renewed]
8. Buna
9. Sidama Manaho
10. Ker-Yihun (Gurage) [A Song for a Friend of Gurage Heritage]
11. Ayasresam - Tzita [Song of Longing for a Memory]


Jodie Kean, Izaline Calister, Lilian Vieira (vocals); 
Zoumana Diarra (guitar, kora); 
Edward Capel (clarinet, saxophone).

v.a. - The Harp of Apollo [Songs Accompanied by the Krar] [1989]

       A nice collection of both semi-ancient and relatively recent songs from Ethiopia, accompanied by the krar (a harp said to have been played by the Apollo, the Greek God) as well as the masanko, a single-stringed fiddle similar to the rebab. 

       The music is nice -- vocals work around one another, and the constant instrumental looping helps to move the song through itself. Being essentially the only area untouched by colonial powers in the scramble for Africa period, Ethiopia kept its traditions relatively pure and un-Westernized. 

           The influences that do show here though are mostly Egyptian, West Asian, and maybe North African. The only major thing lacking here would be more extensive liner notes - that is, more extensive English liner notes (the Japanese portion seems to be quite extensive). Other than that, it's a nice collection of Ethiopian forms. ~ Adam Greenberg

Recorded Mar. 18, 1989, JVC Aoyama Studio, Tokyo.

Getachew Abdi, kebero ; 
Kute Ojulu, kirar, tomm ; 
Elias Tebabal, vocals, masanko ; 

Konsso song (3:15) 
Gonder gjam (4:41) 
Shewa oromo song (4:07) 
Harrar oromo song (7:14) 
Shankila song (4:28)
Tomm (2:03) 
Tigringna song (3:57) 
Na gamme love song (3:13) 
Gurague song (3:20) 
An'chi jidg (4:03) 
Wollaita song (4:00) 
Keberro (2:35) 
Ethiopian classical melodies (7:31)

Roha Band - Tour 1990 [The Best of Roha Band]

   R   E   U   P   L   O   A   D   

       When the Ibex Band disbanded in 1979, three of its members – Selam Seyoum, Giovanni Rico and Fekadu Amdemeskel – joined with Dawit Yifru, keyboard player for the also recently disbanded Dahlak Band, to form the now-legendary Roha Band. 

      Specializing in modern Ethiopian music with a traditional blend, the band’s first contract was with the Addis Ababa Hilton, where they performed together six days a week, perfecting their signature sound. The Roha Band traveled extensively, in Ethiopia and abroad, and performed on Ethiopian television. They made over 250 recordings with a multitude of celebrated Ethiopian singers, including Aster Aweke, Tilahun Gessesse, Mahmoud Ahmed, Muluken Mellesse, Theodros Tadesse, Hamelmal Abate and Neway Debebe. Although the band broke up in 1994, with the members pursuing individual interests, no other Ethiopian group has matched the number or quality of their recordings.

         The Ibex band-of Ere Mela Mela fame-was renamed Roha band and along with Ethio Stars and Wallias Band,they became the leading bands of the time.

      Roha has produced over the years 250 recordings with all the stellar Ethiopian singers: Aster Aweke,Tilahun Gesesse, Mahmoud Ahmed and Alemayehu Eshete.

      Recorded during their first North American tour,this album introduced singers Neway Debebe,Hamelmal Abate,and Berhane Haile to the States and the large Ethiopian community there.

the Artists

Hamelmal Abate: vocals
Neway Debebe: vocals
Berhane Haile: vocals
Ashenafi Awel: drums
Giovanni Rico Bonsignori: bass
Yonas Degefie: saxophone
Selam Syoum: guitar
Yared Tefera: saxophone
Dawit Yifru: keyboards

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

v.a. - Ain't Life Strange? African music [mrc 050] [mostly Ethiopian]

A1 Tefera Kassa – Tijanko Hedetch
A2 Bahtag G. Hiwat – Tessassategn Eko
A3 Menelik Wèsnatchèw – Tezeta
A4 Francis Bebey Pilgrimage To Tanglewood
A5 Sir Victor Uwaifo & His Melody Maestroes – Ebibi
A6 Assegedetch Kassa – Marewa
A7 Etoile International De Dakar* – Dom Sou Nase Bakh

B1 Belaynesh Wabante* – Ereyedemanu
B2 Amha Eshete – Belew Bedubaye
B3 Ayela Momma – Min Bedelkut Minew
B4 Imperial Body Guard Band – Fakir Aygebatchew
B5 Assegedetch Kassa – Sewe
B6 Mulatu Astatke – Emete
B7 Irewolde Denge* - Orin Asape Eko

Dub Colossus - remixes

     R  E  U  P  L  O  A  D    

Dub Colossus - Black Rose (Side stepper remix)

01. Dub Colossus - Wehgene [Almamegretta Mix] (4:57)
02. Dub Colossus - Tringo [Bimbamatic Mix] (4:45)
03. Dub Colossus - Yezema Meseret [Madame Diop Mix] (3:56)
04. Dub Colossus - Wey Fikir [Janaka Selekta Mix] (4:59)
05. Dub Colossus - Medina [Eccodek Mix] (6:00)
06. Dub Colossus - Selemi Pt 2 [Nick Van Gelder Mix] (3:23)
07. Dub Colossus - Wey Fikir [David Chazam Mix] (4:54)
08. Dub Colossus - Azmari Dub (Mista Savona Remix) (4:14)
09. Dub Colossus - Ekcentricity [Sumo Skank mix] (7:55)
10. Dub Colossus - Shegye shegitu [Blue Nile remix) (3:56)
11. Dub Colossus - Neh Yelginete (My First Love) (5:40)
12. Dub Colossus - Sima Edy (Plastic People Dub Re-Edit] (5:38)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Menelik Wossenachew - mixtape [ethiopia]

Enjoy a mix of 10 of Menelik’s songs in 15 minutes.

01.Wub Nat, 
02.Yachi Lij Qonjo Nat, 
03.Aderech Arada, 
5.Meqaberen Liyew, 
06.Tebeb Teqami New, 
08.Mambo Sambo,

Wub Nat:  Written and arranged by Girma Beyene when Menelik was a member of the second Ras Band

Yachi Lij Qonjo Nat: Backed by Haile Selassie Theatre Orchestra–arranged by Nerses Nalbandian

Aderech Arada:  Lyrics by Getachew Debalke arranged by Nerses Nalbandian; backed by Haile Selassie I Theatre Orchestra

Chereqa:  A children’s song-arranged by Girma Beyene backed by All Star Band

Meqaberen Liyew:  Lyrics and music by Menelik Wossenachew arranged by Girma Beyene backed by the All Star Band

Tebeb Teqami New:   arranged by Nerses Nalbandian backed by Haile Selassie Theatre Orchestra

Fiqrachin: Lyrics  by Menelik Wossenachew: music and arrangement  by Mulatu Astatke; backed by the All Star Band

Mambo Sambo:   Lyrics by Menelik Wossenachew; music and arrangement  by Mulatu Astatke; backed by All Star Band

Bati:    Lyrics traditional and Menelik Wossenachew; arranged by Girma Beyene; backed by Marathon Band

Tizita:   Lyrics traditional and Menelik Wossenachew; arranged by Mulatu Astatke

Ethiopian police band - Ethiopia's revolutionary sixties [rare 60's recordings]

                        R   E   U   P   L   O   A   D   

     Over the last ten years, thanks largely to the Herculean efforts of French researcher Francis Falceto (he's the man behind the Ethiopiques CD series released by Buda Musique: each of the twenty-seven volumes so far released are essential listening), curious music lovers have discovered the glories of 1970s 'Ethiopian Groove', a potent brew of traditional rhythms, brilliant arrangements, swinging horns and soulful vocals. These stirring recordings from the 1970s were the fruit of a decade of musical innovation. Influenced by the musical wisdom and instruction of Nerses Nalbandian (a composer, arranger, chorus leader, and music teacher of Armenian origin, who worked with hundreds of Ethiopian musicians), and the R&B, Soul, Rock and Pop hits broadcast by the American military radio at Kagnew Station (an American military base outside Asmara, the capital of Eritrea), and played in the nightclubs and discotheques of Addis Ababa, a young generation of Ethiopian musicians, throughout the 1960s, created, to again quote Francis Falceto, a 'societal revolution' through music. These 'adadis zefanotch', or 'new songs', were distinctly modern- in their instrumentation, arrangements, and groove-and uniquely Ethiopian, in their melodies and 'feeling'. 

       This new style of music was nurtured by two of the country's great musical incubators, the Police Orchestra and Emperor Haile Selassie's Imperial Bodyguard Band: these ensembles, like all music ensembles in Ethiopia at the time, were controlled by the government. The greatest singers, and musicians, of the 1970s-Tlahoun Gessesse, Mahmoud Ahmed, Bzunesh Beqele, to name just three-honed their skills through thousands of performances with these ensembles. Unfortunately, aside from a few 45s released in the mid-1960s, no commercial recordings of these ensembles were made until 1969, when Amha Eshete created Amha records, Ethiopia's first independent record company (according to Falceto there were just under 500 Ethiopian 45s and around 30 lps released between 1969 and 1978, when record production stopped completely). There were, however, reel-to- reel recordings of both groups made by Armenian merchant Garbis Hayzagian, and by Radio Ethiopia.

Police Band (1965)

       In the late 1960s (probably 1967 or 1968), Leo made his first trip to Addis Ababa, where he quickly met many of the city's musical luminaries. One of Leo's more gracious hosts was the composer and conductor Tsegaye Debalqe, who at the time was also the Music Director of Radio Ethiopia. Before Leo left Addis, Tsegaye Debalqe gave Leo this reel with fifteen songs featuring the Police Orchestra, the Imperial Bodyguard Band, and some of the era's greatest singers. These recordings were made in 1961 (the 1953 date on the label above refers to the Ethiopian Orthodox calendar, which is eight years behind the Gregorian calendar), and are a wonderful snapshot of the opening salvos of Ethiopia's musical revolution. 

       01 - Lieut. Mesfin Haile, Hirut Beqele & the Police Orchestra

The first song on the reel is a duet between Lieutenant Mesfin Haile and Hirut Beqele accompanied by the Police Orchestra, featuring a terrific violin player. They sing, "Life is Tough. This world is an unforgiving and bitter place, and now you are leaving me.

      02 - Unknown singer, Bzunesh Beqele & Police Orchestra 'Altchalkoum'

       Next up is a recording of "Altchalkoum", one of Tlahoun Gessesse's most famous, and most controversial songs; ostensibly a dispute between two lovers, this song was actually a protest against the imperial regime. The title of the song can be translated as 'I can't stand it anymore', and after the failed coup d'etat of December 1960, this song led to Tlahoun's arrest and emprisonment. This version of the song, however, does not feature Tlahoun. It is a duo between Bzunesh Beqele and a male singer I have not yet been able to identify, again accompanied by the Police Orchestra.

Imperial Bodyguard Band

03 - Bzunesh Beqele & Imperial Bodyguard Band

       Bzunesh Beqele was the greatest female singer of her generation, one of the first artists to embrace the 'new songs' of the 1960s. She was born in Harar in 1935, came to Addis at a young age to attend school, and by her mid-20s had joined the Imperial Bodyguard Band, where she spent most of her career. She released a series of singles in the early 1970s, and at least two cassettes in the 1980s-both of which are fantastic. She passed away, in 1990, at her home in Addis Ababa; she was only 54 years old. Several years ago, the Ethio Sound record label released a great compilation of her early 1970s Phillips singles. This next track is the earliest Bzunesh recording I've heard.

Imperial Bodyguard Band

04 - Tefera Kassa & the Imperial Bodyguard Band

       Tefara Kassa was another of the Imperial Bodyguard's great singers. Although he doesn't seem to have made many commercial recordings, he was very popular in the 1960s. He still lives in Addis. (I have heard that parallel to his musical career, he also worked, for many years, at the Ministry of Information). These next two songs are upbeat dance numbers. In this first track he sings, 'I wished for her and I got her, I wanted her and she is mine. Because of her I am happy.'

05 - Tefera Kassa & Imperial Bodyguard Band 'Merengue Cha-Cha'

       This next track is one of my favorites on the reel. It is a charming distillation of the different spirits that would eventually create the potent 'Ethiopian groove' of the 1970s. He sings, 'When we dance to the Dorze rhythm, we are really happy. Merengue cha-cha.' The song brings together Latin rhythms, the traditional dance style of the Dorze people (from Southern Ethiopia), with a Dorze melody and singing style, resulting in a song that is simultaneously traditional and modern!

06 - Police Orchestra & unidentified singer 'Shigetu'

       These next two songs are modern arrangements of more distinctly traditional material. This first track, by the Police Orchestra, is a popular melody sung in Oromo. Unfortunately, I have not been able to identify the singer. If you have any ideas, please get in touch!

07 - Imperial Bodyguard Orchestra & unidentified vocalists

       Here is the Imperial Bodyguard Orchestra interpreting a Dorze melody from Southern Ethiopia. I love the vocal polyphony.

08 - Imperial Bodyguard Band 'accordion instrumental'

       Last but not least, an accordion-driven instrumental by the Imperial Bodyguard Band. For many years this song was played by Radio Ethiopia to kick off the day's programs.

Zelwecker and Imperial Bodyguard Orchestra 

Thank you very much to Mulatu Astatqe, Tizita Belachew, Negussie Mengesha, and Solomon Kifle for their help with research and translations. Matthew LaVoie|

v.a. - Ritual Music of Ethiopia [Folkaway editions 4353] [1973]

                          R   E   U   P   L   O   A   D   

" Possibly the weirdest sounding tunes on eMusic "

1973 | Label: Folkways Records / Smithsonian Folkways

       As Editor-in-Chief of eMusic, I listen to a fair amount of music that's available on the site, and I think this might be the weirdest thing I have ever heard. 

       It's by the Gidole people, subsistence farmers in a mountainous, remote area of southwestern Ethiopia. It's a tough life. So it's no wonder that, as the album's liner notes state, "When the people of these tribes sing, play or dance, they give themselves totally to the music. The frenzy of the ritualistic performances is attested to by the trance state which many of the people will enter during festivals." The album highlight, “Giddle Instrumental (Giddle tribe),” is played on bamboo filla flutes and it sounds like one of those trippy buried backwards tracks on a Beatles song like "I Am the Walrus." If you don't start hallucinating wildly about 60 seconds in, you might want to check if you have a pulse."

Ras Deshen - From Ethiopian Music to Contemporary Jazz [2006]

                        R  E  U  P  L  O  A  D  

       Given the considerable number of African Jews living in Ethiopia, it makes perfect cultural sense for Israeli pianist Yitzhak Yedid to team up with Ethiopian sax man and vocalist Abatte Barihun to explore the music of Ethiopia on Ras Deshen, a work which mines the common musical ground shared by their countries. Yedid and Abatte performed selections from the disc recently at a reception at Alice Tully Hall and didn’t let the crowd’s lack of attentiveness diminish the passion of their playing.

                  'Ras Dashen Duo' Abate Berihun & Yitzhak Yedid in concert

       The opening “Anchi Hoye,” written by Abatte, is named for one of the four modes of Ethiopian music. Abatte plays the tenor with a measured tension and clear tenderness that manages to reference both Pres and Trane. Yedid’s brooding timbre, interior dialogue and chord progressions are so reminiscent of Keith Jarrett that his solo could be dropped seamlessly into the grooves of The Köln Concert.

       On “Batti,” Abatte enhances his soprano saxophone with soaring vocals in Amharic. When he performed this song at the reception, his voice cut through the conversation and, at least momentarily, demanded everyone’s attention. Abatte’s tenor on “Yehar Shererit” has a palpable R&B/gospel tinge, with an occasional gutbucket growl added for good measure, working in tandem with Yedid’s playful boogie-woogie chaos. “Fikir” is a beautifully ruminative discourse that sounds quite Middle Eastern in its execution, with Abatte’s serpentine tenor weaving around Yedid’s lush, symphonic piano riffs.

       Yedid lays out on “Birtukane,” giving the floor to Fentahon Malessa on krar, an Ethiopian lyre that sounds close to a guitar and gives the music another rich dimension. On “Ambassel,” another modal tune, Abatte solos powerfully over Malessa’s repeated figure. Yedid lays out again and one can only wonder how all three instruments would have sounded together.

       Perhaps the disc’s most arresting tune, however, is “Behatito Kadus Kadus.” With Yedid vamping in a Fats Waller vein, Abatte lifts his voice again and could be singing about a hellhound on his trail, instead of invoking a prayer. Abatte’s tenor grooves between Ethiopia and the Mississippi Delta, ending this excellent disc on a high note.


Yitzhak Yedid: piano; 

Abatte Barihun: saxophone and voice; 
Fentahon Malessa: krar.

Barry Davis Aug. 1, 2002

Ethiopian jazz band Ras Deshen hopes to take their music to new heights in the Holy Land. Barry Davis gets a lift

The terms "Ethiopia" and "jazz" may not, initially, appear to be the most comfortable of bedfellows. Most people naturally associate music from anywhere in Africa with driving tribal rhythms. Then again, jazz is essentially a form of black music introduced to the Western world by artists who originated from Africa.

Addis Ababa-born saxophonist Abate Berimun, the first and, to date, only Ethiopian jazz musician in Israel, will demonstrate the accuracy of that juxtaposition when he leads a performance by the Ras Deshen band this Tuesday at the Jerusalem Cultures Center as part of the Israel Jazz Showcase series dedicated to promoting Israeli jazz. Abate will be supported by pianist Yitzhak Yedid and Maleseh Fantahon, who will play the krar - a sort of small African harp.

In fact, Abate has several strings to his musical bow. "He can play numerous types of music from Ethiopia," explains Moshe Bar-Yudai, former chairman of the National Arts Council (Omanut La'am) and the driving force behind an ongoing project to establish an Ethiopian Jewry Heritage Center in Rehovot.

"Each region of Ethiopia has its own musical traditions. There is also the Christian liturgical style, which is similar to the Jewish liturgical form. Abate plays both and many more."

Apparently, the catchphrase-oriented world of the latter part of the 20th century was able to accommodate improvised music from Abate's homeland too, and the term "Ethiojazz" came into being in the late Sixties when musicians like Addis Ababa resident Mulatu Astatqe and Cameroon jazz superstar Manu Dibango were putting out a captivating mix of indigenous African music seasoned with soul, salsa and other black rhythms.

When Abate arrived in Israel in late 1999 he was already an established star in the Ethiopian jazz firmament. He had toured Europe many times over a period of 10 years and was a regular feature of the jazz shows put on by the Hilton and Sheraton hotels in Addis Ababa.

He first picked up a saxophone at the age of 17. He says he does not come from a particularly musical family, although he has fond memories of his father's closet vocal prowess. He was initially inspired to take up an active interest in music by his neighbors.

"There was a military brass band that used to practice just down the road from my house," Abate recalls. "I could hear them from my room. I loved the sound of the wind instruments and the saxophones." Suitably bitten by the musical bug, Abate got his hands on a saxophone and found his way to the music school in Addis Ababa. It was there that he began to take his new love seriously. "I did it all myself," he says.

"I told my mother I was going to the music school but my father used to spend a long time away from home and he didn't know about it at the beginning."

Abate's father first discovered his son was a budding musician when Abate invited him to one of his first gigs. "I remember that so well," says Abate. "As soon as my father heard me play he began jumping up and down with glee. He was so happy and proud of me."

The music school not only provided Abate with formal training in jazz, it also allowed him to listen to records of some of the legendary masters, like Charlie Parker. "We had some records at home when I was growing up, but they weren't jazz. My father worked with the Italians before World War II and he got hold of albums by Frank Sinatra and some Italian singers. That was all. But I could get hold of jazz records when I was at the school."

BEFORE LONG Abate had become proficient and confident enough to be able to strut his stuff in public, and he soon secured regular work at the Hilton and Sheraton hotels in the Ethiopian capital. "I played there every day for eight years," Abate says.

Those gigs also provided him with an opportunity to meet tourists from abroad who sometimes brought jazz records with them. There were also occasional visits by foreign jazz artists, such as Manu Dibango, and Abate was able to hone his skills in the company of far more experienced fellow professionals.

When he was 21, Abate began touring Europe with his own band and, until he moved here eight years later, he went on the road for several weeks three times a year visiting Sweden, Holland, Germany, England and France. He says it was quite an experience, for all concerned.

"It was wonderful to see places outside Africa, and the Europeans were excited to hear the music we played. But we worked hard. We generally played five days a week every week for three months." Abate's last European tour ended just three weeks before he came on aliya.

However, since arriving in the Promised Land, his professional fortunes have changed dramatically - for the worse. Initially lacking local language skills - he now speaks Hebrew reasonably well - and unable to find regular work as a jazz musician, he resorted to almost all manner of menial work to keep body and soul together. For a long time he worked a daily shift as a restaurant dishwasher in the morning followed by an all-night shift as a security guard.

"The dishwashing was ruining his hands," says Bar-Yudai, "so we decided to do something." That help came in the form of a small stipend, organized through the Ethiopian Jewry Heritage organization, to enable Abate to get by just on his nocturnal work. "When I was doing both jobs I couldn't practice or perform. I didn't have the time or the strength," says Abate.

Not that things are exactly rosy now. "It's still hard for me to practice." And Abate's compositional efforts are not helped by not having ready access to a piano.

However, one leading member of the local music community, veteran rocker Ariel Zilber, has given Abate some much needed stage time and occasional public exposure. "Ariel has helped me a lot," says Abate. "I've played with him all over the country." The Zilber-Abate synergy also produced a number called "Ethiopian Song," which has been performed on television, in Hebrew and Amharic.

Despite his daily hardships, and drastic drop in professional standing, compared with his life in Ethiopia, Abate remains hopeful that things will work out in the end and that he will be able to make a living here as a full-time musician. His current project with pianist Yedid promises to bear fruit. Besides the forthcoming show, the two are working on a CD based on a mix of Yedid's classically based avant-garde material and Abate's blend of jazz and African strains. The latter include various Ethiopian modes or scales, with names such as Ambasel, Amchihoya, Batti and Tezita, all of which are used for ballads.

Yedid, who spends some of his working hours running Jerusalem's Swedish Chef venue for original jazz music and Third Stream music, is delighted to have the chance to work with the Ethiopian. Yedid and Abate were originally brought together by radio presenter and ethnic-music expert Shlomo Yisraeli.

"Shlomo suggested I do something with Abate," Yedid says. "We got together and we hit it off musically right from the start. I felt he was an amazing musician. He is a jazz artist but he adds African scales. He plays in an Ethiopian style on an instrument which isn't at all Ethiopian."

The Yedid-Abate chemistry worked so well that they were in a recording studio after just two rehearsals. Thus far, they have recorded five tracks as part of the album they hope to complete in the not too distant future. Yedid does have some experience of working with Ethiopian musicians, but he says playing with Abate is a different kettle of fish.

"I played with a couple of singers a few years ago, but this is a much more serious proposition. Abate is an improviser. He has a very special sense of musical structure - a very long structure. He can play for a long time, it's almost like Indian music."

Yedid feels that Abate has something he has never encountered with any other jazz musician he has worked with. "You can feel his African roots. He is almost meditative in his way of playing." By all accounts, it looks like next week's show should provide Jerusalem music lovers with a remarkable experience. Let's hope there will be plenty more from Abate before too long.