Boomkat Product Review:
Blindingly futuristic instrumentals recorded on a kids Casio PT in Asmara, Eritrea, 1986, by Ethiopian player, Yishak Banjaw Belayne. That should really be all you need to know before purchase, but read on if you want more background and to read us rave about it!
Love Songs Vol.2, as the title suggests, is the 2nd volume of Banjaw’s straight-to-tape recordings made in 1986 on a Casio keyboard rented from his pal for 100 Ethiopian Bir per day (not a lot, so we’re told). He apparently made another five volumes in this style before 1989, which, if they’re anything like this, also contain some of the waviest grooves you’ve never heard.
It’s effectively Banjaw’s first international release after more than 40 years as a musician, and was recorded during his time as a member of the Eritrean police band among a mixed group of Eritrean and Ethiopians playing both English music as well as Sudanese, Amharic and Guragigna traditionals, all performed on electric rather than traditional instruments.
However, thru a combination of his classical training and not being able to find a band to perform along with him, by 1986, Banjaw was pushed to record solo, and as you couldn’t perform without a permit, he did so at home, recording straight into the mic of his cassette recorder. Thank the heavens he did, ‘cos his Love Songs are nothing short of stunning.
Based on the aforementioned mix of Sudanese, Ethiopian and Amharic songs that he loved and grew up with, Banjaw would jam for three hours to record the first volume, and only 2 hours for this, the 2nd volume (consider that, producers who are on their 15th hour of mixdowns), transformed those influences into a shimmering, bubbling and spaced out delicacy that obviously recalls Hailu Mergia & His Classical Instrument, but played by Mad Mike and Aksak Maboul.
The eight tracks traverse a fine spectrum of feels, from breezy downbeats to simmering uptempo dances, with two real standouts at the quicker end of the spectrum in the Rob Hood-esque percolated chords of Fikrehoy Temekeri and Ayne Yisasaleshal, whilst the slower parts are just wonderfully atmospheric, funnily enough to the extent we can hear trucks passing by in the road outside on Gwal Semahria.
It’s utterly arresting stuff, the kind of record that will melt any room it’s played in and enchant its owners for years, decades to come.