Boomkat Product Review:
One of the leading lights of Ethiopian music presents his first new material in an age on Lala Belu for Awesome Tapes From Africa - the label who were instrumental in showcasing his work to wider audiences with the compilation Hailu Mergia & His Classical Instrument: Shemonmuanaye in 2013, and later a reissue of reissue of his Tche Belew  album.
Comprising the virtuoso accordionist and keys player’s first new material since those reissues triggered a worthy career resurgence, Lala Belu catches fire in all six parts with a vitally tough and expressive sound that feels like Mergia has thrown off the more genteel jazz vibes of early releases in favour of a fierce, freer jazz and funk flex to proceedings.
The guy’s gotta be knocking into his 70s now yet shows no sign of letting up here, sounding utterly alive and full of feels from the opening cut’s switch from mellow sway to bustling jazz and blazing electric keys, thru the head-down funk chops of Addis Nat, to the swingeing organ lines and percolated percussion of Anchihoye Lene.
He chills out beautifully well on the sublime solo piano piece Yefikir Engurguro, which sweetly recalls the magic of Emahoy Tsegue-Mariam Guebru, while Gum Gum sounds perhaps closest to his debonaire early recordings.