Boomkat Product Review:
Come sway with Hailu Mergia and his younger, all-night posse, the Dahlak Band on reissue of a super rare cassette recording of their afternoon jam sessions at the Ghion Hotel, Addis Ababa, made during downtime from his other band, the Walias.
In contrast with Mergia’s previous two releases for Awesome Tapes From Africa, this 1978 selection captures a more sultry, soulful Amharic sound that was favoured by the younger crowds who would rave at clubs from midnight to 6am, not daring to step outside partly due to restrictive curfews, but more likely owing to the fact the music was so good inside.
Wede Harer Guzo or Journey To Harer - a city in eastern Ethiopia - features Mergia’s distinctive organ front and centre, but against a subtly, notably different backdrop of loose, rolling drums, lissom guitar lines and vocal harmonies that feel less tucked in than the lighter, neater tunes he would have played to foreign diplomats and wealthy Ethiopians with the Walias at another hotel across the road.
In that sense it’s got more of a bluesy funk and soul feel, the kind that we’d imagine could pace stylish younger audiences all night in more intimate, smoky nightclub locations, out with pals or on the pull.
The tape’s fidelity is generally worn down and frayed, but thanks to some deft remastering it stands tall and seductive as window onto a nightclub ritual soundtrack that mirrors, in its own way, what was going on in clubs from Detroit to Manchester at the same time, but with its own, ineffably debonaire style.