Boomkat Product Review:
An East African pop marvel from 1976, 'Beauties' was the only album released by the mysterious Aselefech Ashine and Getenesh Kebret, two young women backed by one of the hardest-charging jazz and funk bands of the Ethiopian scene. The record was a huge hit in Ethiopia in 1976, but the artists never released another album and so it remains a singular document - one of the final records of Ethiopia's Golden Age.
Reissued in full for the first time, 'Beauties' is an under-heard gem that rests on the talents of its two protagonists, both singers trained in their region's centuries-old vocal techniques. Alongside the Golden Age legends The Army Band, who played with Tlahoun Gesesse and Mahmoud Ahmed, they dance around tight double bass runs and shifting, hollow percussive vamps, harmonising next to warbling horns and modal piano runs.
Although the album was a smash when it was originally released, it was quickly lost in the wreckage when Emperor Haile Selassie was deposed and most musicians were forced into hiding. For two decades, nearly all live music and recording was stopped, making 'Beauties' one of the last remnants of the era. Hearing it now, it's remarkable how unusual the duets are, with both vocalists playing against each other, creating uncanny harmonies that seem initially at odds with the light-hearted instrumentation. Give it time and it'll tug at your heartstrings until they're dislodged. So good.