Boomkat Product Review:
Venerable Ethiopian composer, Mulatu Astake is the locus of this enlightening compilation, which was first issued to the wider world on CD in 1992 and is now reissued 25 years later.
"Now, we’ve all heard the Ethiopiques series and many other reissues of Mulatu Astatke and Hailu Mergia over the past few years, but who really knows the socio-political and historical context for all this amazing music, and why it sounds the way it does? This ace set and its original liner notes from Anu Laakkonen should sort that out.
Thanks to the work of Finland’s Global Music Centre - a mobile recording studio - which travelled to Addis Ababa to record the two headline bands, whom both shared a mutual component in Mr. Astatke, the set covers early iterations of drum machine used in Ethiopian popular music, as well as sterling examples of the confluence between domestic religious and secular themes, and traces of rock, funk, pop and soul influence from America and Europe.
The A-side revolves four hypnotic demonstrations of the Ethio Stars, widely regarded the best musicians in the country at the time, gripping the head hips and shoulders with the clipped groove and floating, spectral organ of Aderech Arada, Bekifir / Menged Lay Wodike, then updating the classic Kermosew melody with synths and a big fat funk bassline, while Yetentu Tez Alew clearly nods to ‘80s boogie, but always within that definitive Ethio sound, and Tiz Baleen Gize brings Getatchew Kassa’s vocal into play.
On the other side, Tukul Band experiment with more traditional forms of Ethiopian music. Headed by Mulatu Astatke, the band jam on electrified models of traditional instruments such as the Krar - a six-string bowl-lyre nicknamed “the devil’s instrument” - along with the masinko, Ethiopia’s only bowed instrument typically played by an Azamri or bard/griot, and the washint, a bamboo flute heard on many, many Ethiopian recordings. These pieces are perhaps more urgent, compared with the cool vibes of the others, and definitely worth checking for the haunting instrumental duet in Sound of Washint & Masinko."