World Music Network are pleased to announce that the latest signing to our original premium artists label, Riverboat Records, is London-based Ethiopian group Krar Collective. Recently returned from a successful WOMEX in Copenhagen where the group had hardened music professionals dancing on stage at their showcase rather than sitting at the back with arms folded, Krar Collective have been getting good responses wherever they perform their gritty and upbeat take on traditional Ethiopian songs.
Two weeks later the WMN rushed them into the cosy north London Cowshed Studios with producer Colin Bassto record their first album. In their current live line-up Krar Collective have between them six open strings on the krar lyre, four small kebero drum skins, two great lead and one backing vocal. With these minimal of tools, they deliver the most amazing and dynamic live set you’ll hear anywhere. They didn’t bring much more to the studio – a one stringed fiddle (masenqo), a short flute (washint), a bass krar and bags of excitement.
The krar goes back a long way in history, with some saying it is related to King David’s harp. Played by minstrels in Ethiopia for centuries, the way Temesgen Taraken plays it, plugged in and strummed like a guitar as well as being plucked, brings traditional cultures together with modern technology in perfect harmony. The bass krar is a modern development, though who is to say that King David didn’t maybe long for a funky groove!
Engineer and studio owner Joe Leach set the 24-track reel to reel Otari tape machine rolling and they were off. The group are so familiar with their cultural heritage and song arrangements that they easily adapted to the recording process, laying down live takes and going back where necessary to add in the bass krar, masenqo, washint and vocal overdubs. Colin Bass maintained a watchful eye over the seemingly unplanned what-shall-we-do-next recording fashion of the Collective, giving a prod here and there but recognising that it was important to capture the group's natural dynamic. Recording to tape rather than digital focussed the mind. A solo was dropped in here and there; if they decided to have another try the previous solo was wiped in the process. This was not about achieving some kind of manufactured perfection, but real and honest music.
Four days, nine tracks, job done! With the Masters in Colin’s hands and ready for mixing, we’re all hugely excited about the end restults, so watch this space!