Sounds from Beyond
Besides My Brightest Diamond, I also visited another memorable concert this week. Last Sunday I went to see Alèmayèhu eshèté. The famous star of the golden age of Ethiopian popmusic in the seventies came to town to celebrate the Ethiopian New Year (Enqutatash) which this year is also the turn of a new millennium. They have their own calendar which goes back to the Coptic age which means it’s running 8 years behind.
New Year is a time for family reunions, and visiting friends. A time for girls singing from door-to-door, home-brewed beer and honey wine, and big bowls of spicy chicken stew. I had some chicken stew and all sorts of other Ethiopian delicacies because the concert was preceded by a banquet. I was surprised to see that the food was accompanied by huge pancakes. It was a strange combination, spicy meat, cheese and vegetables with genuine pancakes. It tasted great though.
The concert was also great. Alèmayèhu is something like the Ethiopian Elvis or James Brown. His recordings are now widely available but this was not the case a couple of years ago. I can still remember the first time I heard his music on the Ethiopian Groove sampler on Munich Records. I already had an introduction to Ethiopian music and especially the language in general with the recordings of Mahmoud Ahmed on the Crammed Label in the eighties but it was still a chock to hear this utterly soulful and funky 70’s rare grooves coming from a this seemingly remote part of Africa.
Today we know that there isn’t a part of Africa that didn’t have or still has it’s own musical wonders of the world. And besides that, Ethiopian isn’t that a remote part of Africa. It’s one of the few African countries that kept it’s autonomy during colonization and has it’s own writing. I’m getting more and more intrigued by this amazing country and it’s culture.
If we look at the glocal popmusic of Ethiopia, the real wonder lies in the unique blend of local rhythms with Afro-American and Afro-Cuban styles. The local indigenous rhythms follow their own logic in favour of or against the groove. It sometimes set you literally on the wrong foot but the overall effect is essentially funky.
After all these years Alèmayèhu turns out to be still alive and kicking. A real showman and crowd-pleaser who didn’t have much problems to get the mainly Ethiopian audience dancing.
Interesting to note was the fact that his entire band consisted of whites only. Adventurous young European jazz musicians who knew the music from records and now had to change to learn all this stuff first hand. They did well. Alèmayèhu Eshete was really pleased with his band and so was the crowd. It still difficult today to get a band together in Ethiopia because there are hardly any musical instruments left after all those years of civil war.
Wallias Band – Muziqawi Silt intro to the concert
Tashamanalètch – Shèbèlé’s Band
Wèdèdku Afqèrkush – Shèbèlé’s Band
Tèmèlès feat. Hirut Bèqèlè
Eté HoyEté Hoy
Another wonderful thing was the introduction that day, before the concert, of a new joined Dutch/Flemish magazine on World Music called Beyond. I got myself a free copy which included a bonus CD. A second sampler with some recent music from various Worldbeat artist.
Gétachèw Mékurya, The Ex & Guests – Eywat Setenafgegagn
Shantel – Immigrant Child
Bob Brozman – Nóubliez Pas La Reunion
Sara Tavares – One Love
Yerba Buena feat. Orishas - La Candela (Prendela)
Conjunto Cristal – Praga (Mal Bisiña)
Nils Fischer & Timbazo – Ariñañara
Bassekou Kouyate – Ngoni Fola
Unidentified Singer from Qinghai – Sweet Voice Cuckoo