Showing posts with label acoustic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label acoustic. Show all posts

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Ashenafi Kebede - The Shepherd Flutist, Ethiopian Symphony [1968] [ethiopia]

         Ashenafi Kebede (1938 – May 8, 1998) was an Ethiopian composer, conductor, ethnomusicologist, historical musicologist, music educator, novelist, and poet.

        Kebede was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1938 and was educated in musicology in the United States at the Eastman School of Music (1962), and Wesleyan University (M.A. 1969; Ph.D. 1971).

             He founded the National Saint Yared School of Music in Ethiopia, serving as its first director (1963–1968).

                He was designated a National Composer by Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I, in 1967. Shortly after that he began his graduate studies in the United States, and earned the first Ph.D. in ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University.

The Shepherd Flutist, Ethiopian Symphony

          Ashenafi was a prolific writer. His works include a novel, Confession (1964), articles in ethnomusicology journals, the book Roots of Black Music, and numerous articles in The Chronicler, the magazine of the Center for African-American Culture.

                 In his own compositions he combined Ethiopian and Japanese musical ideas. "Koturasia" is one such piece, written for flute, clarinet, violin, and Japanese koto. Among his other musical compositions were "Peace unto Ethiopia" and "The Life of Our Nation". His best known composition though rarely heard outside Ethiopia was "The Shepherds Flute", performed in 1968 with Hungarian State String Orchestra.

           In the United States, he was Director of the internationally known Ethiopian Research Council, consisting of a group of Ethiopian and American scholars and professionals. At the time of his death he was Director of the Center of African-American Culture at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida.

       Professor Kebede died in Tallahassee, Florida, May 8, 1998. As spoken by the man, "you are here for me, I am not here for you."


01 - The Shepherd Flutist I (8:52)
02 - The Shepherd Flutist II (3:23)
03 - The Shepherd Flutist III (4:40)
04 - The Shepherd Flutist IV (11:56)
05 - The Shepherd Flutist V (3:23)
                              Composed By – Ashenafi Kebede


06 - Ethiopian Symphony [part I & II] (7:40)
07 - Ethiopian Symphony III (12:12)
08 - Ethiopian Symphony IV (10:53)
                              Composed By – Ashenafi Kebede

Ethiopian Symphony in three movements written by Ashenafi Kebede
The Hungarian State String Orchestra with Lóránt Kovács (Flute) conducted by Ashenafi Kebede

The Ethiopian Symphony was dedicated to the 75th birthday of H.I.M. Haile Selassie I.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Tigist Ejigu - Ambassel [1997] [ethiopia]

        R  E  U  P  L  O  A  D    

                                 Pianist Tigist Ejigu

                 Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Tigist Ejigu developed a passion for music when she was a little girl. She had a sharp ear for music, and when she reached 10th grade she join the prestigious Yared Music School of Addis Ababa. Tigist showed an uncanny ability to replicate on piano most any music to which she was given ear. Her formal training at Yared exposed her to a broader repertoire of music, and both her technical expertise and her interpretive insightfulness blossomed.

                 In 1989, Tigist graduated from Yared with honors. She began performing professionally at hotels and restaurants in Addis Ababa. Wabe Shebelle, the Ibex, the Samit and the Hilton in Addis Ababa were among the hosts of her performances. Her repertoire included faithful renditions of traditional Ethiopian, western classical, and popular international music. It also included sensitive interpretative variations on themes of traditional Ethiopian and western classical music.

                 Tigist moved to America in 1996. She first performed at small Ethiopian restaurants and nightclubs in Washington, DC. She performed solo and with small ensembles, and she primarily performed traditional Ethiopian music. As her notoriety evolved, she began playing across the US -including Seattle, Los Angeles, Boston, and New York. DC is her home, and audiences at the Washington Hilton and the Hilton Capital find great favor with her sensitive melding of Classical and popular international themes. Of late, she has focused upon performing her own compositions. They have a jazz like improvisational quality, yet they capture and reflect both traditional Ethiopian and Western Classical aesthetics. Her performances are heartfelt, and her music has a universal appeal while Ethiopia is forever present.

         Tigist's first album, Ambassel, has achieved international recognition. Her new second album is a collection of sensitive interpretations of Ethiopia's popular and traditional melodies. It is reflective of Tizita, Bati, Anchehoye Lene and Ambassel modes of expression.


Tigist Ejigu - 01 - Ambassel [a small village name found in Welo region,Ethiopia] (8:17)
Tigist Ejigu - 02 - Yematbela Wof [Unedible Bird] (6:38)
Tigist Ejigu - 03 - Yiwedegn Aywedegn [Does He Love Me, Does He Not] (6:37)
Tigist Ejigu - 04 - Marigne Biyeshalehu [Accept My Apolgy] (5:33)
Tigist Ejigu - 05 - Endit neh [How Are You?] (5:01)
Tigist Ejigu - 06 - Tizita [Nostalgia] (8:22)
Tigist Ejigu - 07 - S'thed s'ketelat [I'll Keep On Following Her Wherver She Goes] (5:06)
Tigist Ejigu - 08 - Letidar [For Marriage] (6:03)
Tigist Ejigu - 09 - Nafkote [My Beloved One Whom I Miss So Much] (6:41)
Tigist Ejigu - 10 - Yenne fiker [My Love] (5:07)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Ali Shebbo - unknown cassette [ethiopia]

   many thanks goes to Eric !!!

       Ali Shebbo origins from Dire Dawa. He is playing guitar and was along with Ali Birra, Abetew Kebede singing in Afaan Oromo when the government was trying to prohibit it. He also made some performances in Addis Abeba, gave out a 7’’ with Philips, and was an active performer and song-writer and popular amongst the Oromos in the 70s and early 80s.

Ali Shebbo - Dumbushie Ghela

Ali Shebbo - 01 - Garaan Soba Beeka (1:18)
Ali Shebbo - 02 - Ashitaa Hararii (4:46)
Ali Shebbo - 03 - Egnumtiin Dhaamsa Siidhaama (6:28)
Ali Shebbo - 04 - Koo Yaabareedu (6:20)
Ali Shebbo - 05 - Yaani kee Yoom Nadhiise (6:01)
Ali Shebbo - 06 - Asiyoobe (4:51)
Ali Shebbo - 07 - Askootu Assin Jira (5:33)
Ali Shebbo - 08 - Shagar Ba'huuree (6:01)
Ali Shebbo - 09 - Haaroon Haaramaayaa (6:01)
Ali Shebbo - 10 - Ija Lameen Kula (5:12)
Ali Shebbo - 11 - Bariidana Kee ti (6:25)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Munit and Jorg - ፪ - Munit + Jorg [2013 [ethiopia] [ger+eth]

       Munit and Jörg have been creating a most unique and energized blend of Ethio-Acoustic Soul music in Addis Abeba, around Ethiopia and the world! This Ethio-German duet has been entertaining thousands of people with their exciting and engaging live shows, sharing their love for funk, soul and Ethiopian flavors with audiences everywhere.

      Since the duet formed in 2007, Munit and Jörg have had a great journey performing in all the best jazz and world clubs in Addis Abeba. With just one voice and one guitar, they create sounds that are larger than life while bringing an intimacy that makes their audience feel as though they are sitting with old friends in their living room. They believe in creating a positive and uplifting vibration where the audience becomes part of ‘the band, clapping, singing and moving to the music even if it’s in a language they don’t understand!

      Munit’s voice soars in perfect harmony and beat with the rhythmic strumming and drumming of Jörg’s playing as they infuse new energy into old song and tell their own personal stories with joy and play at the heart of it all.

Munit and Jorg - Yekermo Sew

       Munit + Jorg second album, a studio production entitled “፪ ። 2”, was released in March 2013. The title represents the fact that it is the two of them that were the executive producers and artistic directors this project. It is also their second album and the blend of two cultures that has created their unique music! 

       The long-awaited album contains 14 songs, of which 9 are originals and 5 are well-loved familiar tunes ranging from an updated classic by 
legendary krar player, vocalist and actress Asnakech Worku, to children’s songs and an Ethio-jazz standard originally arranged by Ethiopian musical icon Mulatu Astatke. The combination of the new and old provides something for everybody, for those who crave to remember the good old days to those who crave new visions, styles and sounds in Ethiopian music. 

     The album includes many styles and the songs tell personal stories and universal truths with layers of guitar and voice and a few touches of percussion by guest drummers Natnael Tessema and Teferi Assefa

Munit and Jorg - 01 - Hagere (4:10)
Munit and Jorg - 02 - Abet Abet (4:14)
Munit and Jorg - 03 - I Remember (4:39)
Munit and Jorg - 04 - Yekermo Sew (3:52)
Munit and Jorg - 05 - Kraro (2:33)
Munit and Jorg - 06 - Bale Gari (3:31)
Munit and Jorg - 07 - Trans-Africa Highway (4:32)
Munit and Jorg - 08 - Fana Wogi (3:29)
Munit and Jorg - 09 - Yegize Te-Amer (4:04)
Munit and Jorg - 10 - Vanity (4:38)
Munit and Jorg - 11 - Ete Mete (4:35)
Munit and Jorg - 12 - Sister (3:49)
Munit and Jorg - 13 - Abaye (4:43)
Munit and Jorg - 14 - Selam (3:14)

Friday, June 5, 2015

v.a. - Golagul - Chants d'amour et de resistance [eritrea] [1999]

   R   E   U   P   L   O   A   D   

                       Eritrea, ancient province Ethiopia became independent at the beginning of the 90's and has lived a painful history. But nothing has ever prevented the people of Eritrea from singing, and not even the numerous famines. 

               The People of the plain of Zula (Afar, Tigré and Saho) give rhythm to their everyday life in simple, repetitive singings. The leader, man or woman, throws a comment on rhythms (handclaps and kebero percussion), the others start again, insisting on the same rhythmic, as an obsessive loop. History the concern of protecting the culture and politics, stimulates more than a singer. " On one hand, he killed you, whereas on the other one he fed you " tells a Saho about Haile Sélassié.

            A kebero is a double-headed, conical hand drum used in the traditional music of Eritrea and Ethiopia. A piece of animal hide is stretched over each end, thus forming a membranophone. A large version of the instrument is also used in Orthodox Christian liturgical music, while smaller versions are used in secular celebrations.

01. Ana meto agébé [Tigré Tribe] 2:57
02. Ayrègèdè [Afar Tribe] 2:05
03. O'h yéharshema [Saho Tribe] 2:34
04. Haleto lale lalô [Saho Tribe] 2:19
05. Sêda [Afar Tribe] 3:05
06. Toriyota [Afar Tribe] 1:38
07. Erab Ghedam [Tigré Tribe] 3:48
08. Adate [Tigré Tribe] 2:59
09. Aran heutoukta [Saho Tribe] 6:41
10. Innyo soklié [Saho Tribe] 3:39
11. Kéké [Afar Tribe] 2:31
12. Sänädirlê [Saho Tribe] 2:24
13. Farum Ghedan [Saho Tribe] 6:46
14. Selâm [Tigré Tribe] 3:49
15. Yewêlâlè [Tigré Tribe] 2:17
16. Erytrea nèdègé [Saho Tribe] 4:24
17. Worada [Saho Tribe] 4:13
18. Lâleh [Afar Tribe] 2:47

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Eténèsh Wassié & Mathieu Sourisseau - [2010] - Belo Belo [ethiopia-france]

originally posted on AfroCubanLatin jazz blog >

       Ethiopian singer Eténèsh Wassié previously appeared with the French jazz group Le Tigre des Plantanes on the album "Ethiosonic”. Here she is only accompanied by le Tigre’s acoustic bass player Mathieu Sourisseau, with very occasional contributions from guest instrumentalists, and the result is a stark contrast in sound.

     The complicity between Etenesh’s untamed voice and Mathieu’s shifting chords create an intimate musical experience with plenty of open spaces for improvisation while the Ethiopian repertoire is subtly coloured by Western musical influences

Eténèsh Wassié - vocals

Eténèsh is an adventurer. With an outstanding personality, she is ready to embark on the wildest projects. She was born in Gonder in 1971 and discovered very early she had a voice. Although she has established herself with her three-piece suits, her humor and her sharp sense of the joke , Etenesh has always had a special place in the azmari area. In Ethiopia, azmari tradition, these "griots" of East Africa, is very strong and is part of daily life. She began her career in the early 90s in "azmaribèts", these kind of cabarets, accompanied by messenqo players (one string violin) and kebero (percussion), she keeps the tradition alive in vocal improvisations rich in double meaning "sem-enna-wèrq" (the famous national intellectual sport!). Quickly invited by several Ethiopian musicians with  whom she collaborated on stage or on disc, Etenesh gradually frees herself and  joins the network of artists outside the mainstream.

Francis Falceto, big fan of those azmaribèts and editor of the series "Ethiopiques", discovered Etenesh and felt in love with her unique voice and her charisma. He invited her to several European tours between 2000 and 2005 with musicians, singers and dancers for  "Cabaret Ethiopian" tours (Banlieues Bleues, Tribu Festival, Châteauvallon ...). 
Then in 2007, he suggested her to join le Tigre des Platanes. Since she is touring internationally several times a year.

“Eyes half shut, Eténèsh lets her voice guide her where it takes her (takes us), thrilling, digging, colossal little sister of such a Piaf and a Billie Holiday. But the register of tears wouldn’t be enough for her, and she might as well, without warning, hasten the tempo after a ballade we would have wished endless.” 

Mathieu Sourisseau – acoustic bass

Mathieu is first of all guitarist, sousaphonist autodidact, Mathieu is currently exploring the possibilities of the bass because ... it's like a condensed version of both. Mathieu Sourisseau is a longtime companion of saxophonist Marc Démereau, with who he is associated for several projects : sousaphone in La Friture Moderne, fanfare de luxe.  It's with le Tigre des Platanes - cheeky quartet in which he plays the acoustic bass  - he felt in love with the voice of Etenesh Wassie. Mathieu also works with Didier Kovarsky in les Oiseaux. He worked also with  Benoit-Bonnemaison Fitte for an acoustic guitar solo  accompanied by  super eight films: la Maison, Souris, created at the request of Jean-Pierre Layrac for the opening of the season 2004/2005 of Un Pavé dans le Jazz.

01. Burtukan 
02. Ende Matew Style
03. Ambassel
04. Gonder c’est Bon
05. Belo Belo Belo
06. Ayluga
07. Zelessenia
08. Zeraf
09. Tezeta
10. Kassa Tezeta

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Addis Acoustic Project - Tewesta [Remembrance] [2011]

                      R   E   U   P   L   O   A   D    

     Perhaps because of its own internal diversity, Ethiopia seems particularly open to external musical influences.  Christianity was adopted as the official state religion in the 4th century, although on third of the population is Muslim.  

       Four ethnic groups are dominant, but eighty (!!) different ethnic groups presently exist within Ethiopia.  So this collection of reworked Ethiopian hits of the 1950s and 1960s is quite the eye-opener, with its seamless mix of East African, Latin and American jazz styles.

           As the liner notes explain, the overthrown of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974 gave rise to a much more aggressive electric sound in Ethiopian music subsequently, with Ethio-jazz, R&B and pop artists such as Mahmoud Ahmed and later, Aster Aweke and Gigi attracting the attention of world music enthusiasts.

         But the electric style was preceded by the acoustic, which featured guitars, accordion, double bass, mandolin, clarinet, oud, drums and miscellaneous percussion.  

      The music on this CD has a mellow vibe, occasionally bordering on “smooth jazz,” and the seemingly 
effortless playing the by the six native Ethiopian musicians in the band transports the listener to hip, smoky cafes that would have flourished during the period.  

       Most of the fifteen songs on the program use the classic pentatonic (five-note) scale, although adherence to the scale is more or less strict, depending upon the arrangement.  

     The prominent use of clarinet and accordion as dual lead voices is reminiscent of Jewish klezmer music at times.  The music is most distinctive and “Ethiopian” when it combines modal scales and loping but highly complex time signatures (5/4, 6/8), as on the gorgeous “Ambassel” and “Yigermal.” 

     Elsewhere though, influences are more tangled and subtle.  The rhythm foundation on a number of pieces is predominantly Latin (the ostinato riff and rhythm of “Yetintu Tiz Alegn” comes very close to Santana’s version of “Black Magic Woman”), while melody lines and orchestration can suggest everything from Argentine tango to Celtic music. 

         Leader, arranger and guitarist Girum Mezmur has clearly listened to a good deal of jazz guitar (Jim Hall, Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, etc.) and he integrates tasty but highly nuanced jazz lines into a number of tunes.  

       Indeed, an ethnomusicologist would find this music to be a veritable treasure trove, although one doesn’t have to analyze it in order to enjoy it.  For Ethiopians, a great deal of nostalgia is undoubtedly wrapped up in these pieces, but for everyone else, the pure musicality of the CD will be quite sufficient.  

       In fact, after a few spins, the music will likely insinuate itself into the listener’s consciousness to the extent that it will take up permanent residence.  Highly recommended.

01. Addis Acoustic Project - Selam Yihoun Lehoulachin (4:43)
02. Addis Acoustic Project - Ambassel (6:15)
03. Addis Acoustic Project - Almaz YeHarrarwa (6:01)
04. Addis Acoustic Project - Ante Timeta Ene (6:01)
05. Addis Acoustic Project - Fikir Ayarejim (3:58)
06. Addis Acoustic Project - Etitu Beredegn (5:19)
07. Addis Acoustic Project - Anchim Ende Lela (5:57)
08. Addis Acoustic Project - Mashena (5:00)
09. Addis Acoustic Project - Yene Hassab (4:56)
10. Addis Acoustic Project - Yetintu Tiz Alegn (5:06)
11. Addis Acoustic Project - Ema Rumba (4:38)
12. Addis Acoustic Project - Enigenagnalen (5:22)
13. Addis Acoustic Project - Kewedet Tegegnech (4:34)
14. Addis Acoustic Project - Alemoush Mambo (4:12)
15. Addis Acoustic Project - Yigermal (4:36)

Girum Mezmur, acoustic guitar, semi-acoustic jazz guitar, accordion, vocals &     arrangement
Henock Temesgen, double bass, vocals
Nathaniel Tesemma, drums, percussion
Ayele Mamo, mandolin, vocals, lead vocals
Mesale Legesse, kebero, darbuka, bongos, hand percussion
Dawit Ferew, clarinel, vocals
Ahmed Elmak, oud
Endris Hassen, massinko


   R   E   V   I   E   W   S  :   

           Addis Acoustic Project Revives Classic Ethiopian Grooves on Tewesta (Remembrance) Ethiopia isn't usually the first locale that comes to mind when one thinks of music made with acoustic guitars, accordion, mandolin and clarinet. Yet those instruments are at the core of Tewesta (Remembrance) (Harmonia Mundi/World Village), the new release by Addis Acoustic Project, a sextet that transports instrumental Ethiopian pop hits from the 1950s and '60s into the modern world. 

                  Informed not only by classic African music but by jazz, Latin and other styles, AAP creates an intoxicating, charming blend of sounds that called "a gentle groove with carefully rounded edges."

            Addis Acoustic Project is the brainchild of Girum Mezmur, who directs and arranges the music as well as contributing acoustic and semi-acoustic guitars, accordion and vocals. Each of the other musicians--Ayele Mamo (mandolin, vocals), Dawit Ferew (clarinet, vocals), Henock Temesgen (double bass, vocals), Nathaniel Tesemma (drums, percussion) and Mesale Legesse (kebero, darbuka, bongos, hand percussion), plus Ahmed Elmak (oud on one track) and Endris Hassen (massinko on one track)--is a virtuoso who brings a full spectrum of musical colorings to this gentle but lively music, rich in history and now speaking to a new generation.

               Addis Acoustic Project, on Tewesta (Remembrance)--the title is in the Ethiopian Amharic language--seamlessly fuses the traditional with the contemporary. For those who grew up with access to Ethiopian music during the mid-20th century, this is music that will be instantly familiar. But even for those who did not--and that would include the vast majority of Westerners-these are songs that feel comfortable and homey, melodies and rhythms that grab hold upon the first listen.

          AAP was formed by Girum Mezmur with the intent of finding common ground between the authentic Ethiopian pop sounds of a bygone era-specifically the era just preceding what many consider the "Golden Age" of Ethiopian pop-and jazz, and then bringing it up to date in something wholly fresh-sounding. Mezmur carefully chose the instrumentation for the band, building it around his own accordion playing and other instruments that were commonly used in the Ethiopian pop he wanted to revive, including double bass, drums, clarinet, mandolin and the kebero, a cone-shaped, double-headed hand drum native to Ethiopia. After choosing the instrumentation, Mezmur set about finding the ideal musicians for his dream band, auditioning prospective members until he felt that the connection between them was just right.

         Only then did Mezmur begin to assemble a repertoire, scouring record stores and old radio station playlists and speaking to individuals who remembered the era. The group debuted in March 2008, honing its sound at countless gigs and ultimately heading into the studio in Addis Ababa in 2009 and '10  to cut the songs that now comprise Tewesta Remembrance. Girum Mezmur produced the sessions.

         The vast majority of the tunes collected on this recording revolve around the emotion most common throughout the history of music: love. The translations give that away quickly: "Fikir Ayarejim," which means Love is Eternal, was a popular song, made famous by Ethiopian vocalist Menelik Wossenachew, that originated in Sudan. AAP's interpretation features the great Sudanese oud master Ahmed Elmak guesting. Other highlights include "Enigenagnalen" (“We Shall Meet Again”), a love song originally by Girma Negash that speaks of hope, and "Yigermal" (“Such a Beauty...What Are You Called?”), a traditional folk song featuring mandolin and clarinet.

        Perhaps the song that best sums up the mood and feel of Tewesta (Remembrance), however, is "Yetintu Tiz Alegn," whose title translates to “Remembrance” or, more specifically, “Remembering the Olden Days.” Originally made popular by Ethiopian singer Tilahun Gessesse, it was also recorded by the legendary late South African singer Miriam Makeba on her smash hit Pata Pata album in 1967. With its alternately elegiac and celebratory rhythms, global vibe and clustered harmony vocals, it's a tour de force that perfectly encapsulates the then-and-now motif Mezmur had in mind when he initially conceived the group. The jubilant track mirrors the excitement generated at an AAP gig, where audience interaction is not only common but expected.

              For Mezmur, the emergence of Addis Acoustic Project has been the realization of a lifetime goal. After finding an accordion in his Addis Ababa home that belonged to his uncle, Mezmur became, well, mesmerized, obsessively learning the instrument and then moving on to guitar, piano and arranging music. Citing a diverse list of influences ranging from Ethiopian guitarist Selam Seyoum to the late American jazz master Wes Montgomery, Mezmur honed his chops while learning music theory and the art and business of leading a band. Attending the Yared Music School in Addis Ababa and working with different bands gave him experience and insights, all of which he draws upon now as the creative 
force behind AAP.

            In his liner notes to Tewesta "Remembrance,” Mezmur writes, "The essence of this project is about presenting the music of that era [the '50s and '60s] in an authentic manner, yet with a new twist. 

             Equally important is also preserving the sound and instrumentation of those days. I hope this recording captures these elements and does justice in these respects."

    Undeniably, it does, but what ultimately makes Tewesta (Remembrance) such a winner is that one need not even know that these are old songs remade for today's world in order to fall in love with them. Addis Acoustic Project, on Tewesta (Remembrance), has gone beyond its own stated goal and has created music that is truly timeless.


       ‘…a seamless re-imagining of a nation's musical history …’
                                             by Manuel Abreu

         Timelessness comes in a variety of guises. For Addis Acoustic Project (AAP) bandleader Girum Mezmur, it comes by following a path many other intelligent and ambitious musicians have followed recently: synthesis of old and new. Mezmur also arranged these visionary rediscoveries. He says in the liner notes to the Tewesta album: "The essence of this project is about presenting the music of that era [the '50s and '60s] in an authentic manner, yet with a new twist." "Tewesta" means "remembrance" in Amharic, and what Mezmur has done on AAP's debut, after two years of sharpening their sound through live performance, is remarkable.

      This music is a seamless re-imagining of a nation's musical history, teasing out different vectors of sound possibility through the updated sound, allowing other musical idioms to seep through. While Mezmur was also devoted to "preserving the sound and instrumentation of those days," his vibrant arrangements allow for different aspects of the world of music to meld with traditional Ethiopian music, this exploration allowed by the downplayed importance of vocals and the focus on instrumental music. Consider "Fikir Ayarejim," which translates to "Love is Eternal." Popularized by Sudanese singer Menelik Wossenachew, the original song is led by a sultry synthetic orchestra and casual, shuffling drums, standard fare for Ethiopian oldies pop.

      The AAP remake, however, opens with Latin-tinged drums, moving into a muscular accordion and oud led groove (master Ahmed Almek on oud). The rhythm of the song maintains the upbeat quality of the original, but Mezmur allows the melody to expand significantly, though without any egoistic solos--it's a bold move, essentially a statement of the semiotic weight of melody. Anyone intimately familiar with these songs will immediately recognize the melodies, regardless of the missing vocals. 

    The best part about this album is that even if you don't know the originals, you don't need to. It's hard not to enjoy this, conceptual ambition aside. It's those melodies--they grab you by the collar, like an excited child in the castle of her dreams, leading you eagerly down the twisting hallways.

While in Chicago in February of this year, Addis Acoustic Project’s founder and guitarist Girum Mezmur appeared solo at the Ethiopian Diamond II Restaurant.

    The Latin jazz influence is even more pronounced on "Yetintu Tiz Alegn," which I believe translates to "Remembrance of Olden Days." Old master Tilahun Gessesse also has a version of this track. While the first half of the track only evokes Latin rhythms, led by Ayele Mamo's mandolin, a breakdown leads the listener straight into a minor-key, chromatic-drenched Latin guitar solo by Mezmur. Indeed, the music of AAP is about finding common ground between Ethiopian music and other genres of music, particularly jazz, Latin music, and folk. The lack of emphasis on vocals--though they are present--combined with the innovative arrangements moves AAP's debut from purely Ethiopian music to a more universal idiom. I don't want to call it world music, but I suppose that's the only label available.

       While maintaining an unmistakable cultural identity, Mezmur and other musicians like him are interested in creating a dialog with other genres, other nations, other time periods, and this is a trend I strongly support. AAP's resplendent music is about communication, and aside from crossing historical and cultural bridges, they also cross the bridge to the listener's ear. The amount of variety here is outstanding, as well as the musicianship. One eye-opening moment is, in fact, the closer--and by the way, even though the album is over an hour in length, it keeps you enthralled the whole way through--"Yigermal," which warps 3/4 to its own whims through subtle subdivision, featuring claps on the chorus and led by mandolin and clarinet. Mezmur is a master of timbre and combines instruments perfectly for his evocative needs. Indeed, sometimes he attempts to traditionalize more than modernize: compare the eerie "Anchim Ende Lela" with a much jazzier version by Girma Degefu.

       Mezmur's take on Girma Negash's hopeful love song "Enigenagnalen" (We Shall Meet Again), opens with a lusty, rueful guitar solo which is offset by Dawit Ferew's mourning clarinet, painting a picture of both the beauty and futility of hope in the face of life's circumstances. Whether the lovers meet again is not the point, only that the hope exists, that it can flower. The mambo-like rhythm drives the song forward. Nathaniel Tesemma and Mesale Legesse, who handle the percussion, are to be commended for their tight, powerful grooves, which never lack subtlety. As well, Dawit Ferew is ablaze throughout, displaying his mastery of the clarinet in the Ethiopian style. Mezmur painstakingly assembled his band -he himself handles guitar and accordion -and it pays off.

       While you don't need to know anything about the source music behind this wonderful album, I found that research into the originals gave me a greater appreciation for the brilliance of Mezmur's arrangements and his band's playing, as well as a deeper understanding of the context of the musical conversation AAP is trying to have. As well, I can pretty much guarantee that any musical discoveries this album leads to will be golden--Ethiopian music, old and new, is a veritable rabbit hole and gold mine which I recommend you delve into. For starters, there's the Ethiopiques series. But I'll leave that to you. For now, let me just repeat that this is an excellent album, and whether you're interested in the context of Mezmur's ideas for finding common musical ground, you won't be disappointed.


           ‘…onto something very special…’
                                            by Tom Orr

        Given the volume of great vintage music from Ethiopia that's been discovered (or, more accurately, rediscovered) and made available in the last decade and a half, and considering how deeply those new/old Ethiopian sounds are loved by listeners well beyond the standard world music crowd, it was only a matter of time before a band like Addis Acoustic Project came along. Founded by guitarist/accordionist/arranger Girum Mezmer, the group re-creates in mostly instrumental style Ethiopian hits of the 1950s and ‘60s, a time when instruments like the mandolin and accordion were prominent and the funkier, horn-heavy sounds celebrated in much of Buda's Ethiopiques series hadn't yet arrived.

        If the latter is the Ethiopian music you know and love, rest assured that what you'll hear on Tewesta isn't so very far removed from it. The serpentine melodies, zesty riffs and uniquely Ethiopian swing 
are here, although in a more stripped-down form. Alongside Mezmer are players who combine youthful strength and veteran savvy on mandolin, bass, clarinet, drums and percussion, often branching off into jazzy asides, Latin grooves or klezmer-like liveliness before slipping back into melodies that couldn't be from anywhere else but Ethiopia. AAP's intimate approach also shows the extent to which early Ethiopian popular music gleaned from sounds of nearby Sudan and even far afield influences like 

     European waltzes and the works of Armenian arranger Nerses Nalbandian. At once traditional, experimental (it'd be great if Mulatu Astatke hooked up with these guys), and accessibly catchy, Addis Acoustic Project is onto something very special. Tewesta is a delight of a disc, and let's hope there's more of its kind in the works.