Lucky Seven – Ethiopiques

It’s all been a bit quiet on the New Music front, here, hasn’t it?

Actually, I lie, I’m still the beneficiary of a ludicrously generous deal from Emusic, (which I’m sure they’d love to get out of, if they could), and as ever a load of this is new stuff that I’m taking a punt on. Some decent sounding stuff by Wye Oak, Travels, Ducktails and Bleeding Heart Narrative, some of which I shall no doubt post on in the near(ish) future… Also been sent a record to review (which I’m getting on to I promise, Dave). On top of that I’ve just come back from a trip to Fopp in Bristol…

Truth is that my iThing has been completely overrun by all things Ethiopiques. I think I’ve mentioned the Swinging Addis collection and that I’d nominated it for the next album for #lpgroup to cover. In the event, only one other punter voted for it, but it has reminded of how great the stuff is and as a result I’ve gone and bought another six volumes of the series, each one as exciting as the one before. Suddenly, the house and car resound with the goofy sounds of seventies Ethiopia; and Alemayehu Eshete, Mahmoud Ahmed and Mulatu Astatque have become household names over here.

I won’t try to sound like I know all about Ethiopian music and the unique bubble in time that encloses the entire Swinging Addis scene, but if you’re interested (and why wouldn’t you be?) there’s an interview with Francis Falceto the genius behind the series, at the Afropop Worldwide site which is fascinating.

Anyway all you need to know is that a pile of razor-sharp jazzy, souly, RnB recordings emerged, a mixture of American arrangements and unique Ethiopian stylings, generally sung in Amharic. All of it brimming with self confidence and attitude. It’s just breath-taking stuff…

Common flavours are the reedy sounds of organ and rhythm guitar, jumpy exotic vocals and traditional instrumentation. The driving force, however, common to pretty much every track, is the spiky, intelligent and just plain groovy presence of two or three man horn sections all over the place. Can’t find hardly any video of the musicians but the photos suggest all sorts of synchronised moves from the brass players, in the style of the Famous Flames. It must’ve been wild.

An added, somewhat tragic, element to all this is that with the ousting of Selassie by the Derg and President Mengistu, Swinging Addis disappeared completely after a series of curfews and bans were imposed. Some of the main artists went into exile, some died, some just packed it in and went back to their original trades. As far as I can tell, there’s almost no trace of the whole scene in modern day Addis and it’s been consigned to history.

The good people of Buda, however, have now issued 27 (I think) volumes of the Ethiopiques series and with one or two more “difficult” exceptions, it’s all absolute gold.

I haven’t done a Lucky Seven for ages, so it seems fitting that this one should be an Ethiopiques special. You lucky, lucky people!

Lucky Seven – Ethiopiques

Ene Negn Bay Manesh – Girma Beyene

Tchero Adari Negn – Alemayehu Eshete

Aynotchesh Yerefu – Samuel Belay

Eskegizew Bertch – Alemayehu Eshete

Ambassel (fast) – Alemayehu Eshete

Yekermo Sew – Mulatu Astatke

Swinging Addis – Seventies Style

One of the pleasures of #lpgroup is that it encourages you to revisit some of your favourite records, and to discover some new ones. And in some cases both.

This month’s topic is Neither UK Nor US, so obviously there’ve been some Nick Cave, Bjork and Sugarcubes mentions – all good stuff – but I thought I’d go for something else and one of the records I nominated was my copy of Volume 8 of the Ethiopiques series: Swinging Addis. Not sure if anyone’s going to go for it but it sure as hell woke me up. What a cracking record – all James Brown brass and wacka-wacka guitars combined with fuzztone lead and the most amazing fluttering breathless Amharic vocals. It really is a winner.

Predictably, the choice of Seventies Amharic funk-rock is a little thin on YouTube, but there is this by Alemayehu Eshete, who seemed to have been a bit of a legend of the times. I’m not going to pretend I know a lot (or indeed anything) about this record – not even sure of the name. Have fun.

(I have no idea what’s happening around 2:30 – but I like it!)