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Boomkat Product Review:
The label wing of Brian Shimkowitz's rightly titled Awesome Tapes From Africa have remastered Hailu Mergia's visionary, switched-on solo recordings of traditional Ethiopian songs played on analog synth, electric piano and accordion. 'Shemonmuanay' was first released in 1985 on Kaifa Records and features eleven delights blending the coy, winking melodies and phrasing of Ethiopian folk music with swaying machine rhythms and occasionally his own vocals. Haila received his earliest musical experience playing in the Ethiopian Army's music department, and progressed to playing in small bars as a solo singer. While contracted at Zula club with the Walias band, he and the group took the unprecedented step, in Ethiopia at least, to buy their own equipment (it was previously provided by the venue owners, who also had the power to fire at will). More lucrative contracts with hotels such as the Hilton followed, leading them to become the first Ethiopian band to tour in America. 'Shemonmuanay' captures the essence of Mergia's style during this period, a debonaire, exotic and refined style exuding an ambiance of futuristic elegance. Highly recommended!