Whether it conjures up legendary marathon runners, the rock-hewn churches at Lalibela, richly brewed coffee, Rastafarian spirituality, tumbling waterfalls or steaming hot springs, Ethiopia is a country famed for diverse reasons. Home to 82 million residents, the landlocked country is also birthplace to a multiplex of brilliant musics.
On this Rough Guide the ‘Golden Age’ of recorded Ethiopian music is paid homage to via tracks by seminal Ethio-jazz musicians Mahmoud Ahmed and Alemayehu Eshete. Other handpicked gems are selected from the Ethiopiques album series produced by Francis Falceto, an aficionado and scholar of rare Ethiopian records. The energetic music of saxophone prodigy Getatchew Mekuria references the long history of military brass bands in the country fused with a thoroughly modern rock ethos.
Dynamic London-based ensemble Krar Collective also make an appearance and rock the track ‘Ende Eyerusalem’ with their signature forthright attitude and soaring female vocals. On the track, ‘Sek’let (Crucifixion)’ Zerfu Demissie can be heard playing the begena, a large Ethiopia harp that reverberates thick and loudly, sounding almost electronic, like a futuristic synthesizer.
The Rough Guide to Ethiopia also considers some unique fusion projects that marry traditional Ethiopian grooves with dub, rock and punk sensibilities. Dub Colossus is the lovechild of UK musician and producer Nick Page and a host of established Ethiopian artists, including vocalists Tsedenia Gebremarkos and Sintayehu ‘Mimi’ Zenebe. Their sound is amped-up classic dub while Invisible System, a band headed up by UK based producer Dan Harper, explore a more experimental and darker sound and provide the excellent bonus album also.
This Rough Guide is soaked in the urban cool that pervades Ethiopian music, both traditional and modern. Traverse the grooves of the ancient mountain kingdom, from antique vibes to futuristic styles.