29 May 2009

African Journey - Part 1: East & North Africa

Get that passport dusted off, because we're about to begin an epic journey through Africa, highlighting great music along the way. Today we touch down in East Africa: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for two tracks from the Ethiopiques series. Having spent a lot of time in Ethiopian restaurants during my former DC living stint from 1990 to '94, I'd heard a lot of Ethiopian music there. Hell, Aster Aweke went to NOVA, the community college just up the street from my first apartment. But back then I didn't like what I was hearing... too high-pitched. Well, it turns out that there was a HUGE chunk of great music in Ethiopia, but you had to dig a bit deeper in the past to get to it. First we start with Mahmoud Ahmed, who had a whole volume of the series dedicated to him. Also getting this honor was Mulatu Astatke, who's garnered the lion's share of press. But my ear prefers the rougher, rawer magic of Ahmed. 1- Era Mela Mela by Mahmoud Ahmed, from Ethiopiques Vol. 7 (Buda Musique, 1999) The next track is a hybrid, a mutated James Brown funk groove fused with Ethiopian homegrown sounds. The Godfather reached all around the globe, and his gift to Africa was no smaller than that to America... so much good stuff has come of it, enough to dedicate a future Soundbombing to. But for now, just a taste: 2- Tèmèlès by Alèmayèhu Eshètè. from Ethiopiques Vol. 3 (Buda Musique, 1998) Leaving the great land of Ethiopia behind, we take a trip to the dry wastes of the North, to Libya and the desert-soaked guitar sound of Tinariwen. Just like Ethiopian music, North African was a kind of "last frontier" for me, something that didn't interest me much... but then came Tiniwaren. This is music of nomads, swirling guitars that evoke the hot, choked landscape out of which they are born. So far the scene is pretty much them and Etran Finatawa, another Tuareg band, but this music is seriously trance inducing and timeless. Tinariwen is one of the bands most frequently heard around Casa Gomek these days. 3- Tamatant Tilay by Tinariwen, from Aman Iman: Water is Life (World Village, 2007) 4- Oualahila Ar Teninam by Tinariwen, from Amassakoul (World Village, 2004) Next Destination: West Africa...

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