Various Artists: The Rough Guide to Ethiopian Jazz (Rough Guide/Southbound)

 |   |  <1 min read

Heywete by Tesfa Maryam Kidane
Various Artists: The Rough Guide to Ethiopian Jazz (Rough Guide/Southbound)

This is certainly jazz from elsewhere.

As with so many countries in the colonial period and into the early days of independence (before local bullies hijacked the government or invaders from outside did the same), Ethiopia once had a flourish and distinctive jazz scene.

Duke Ellington on one of his music-cum-diplomatic missions for the US State Department played in Addis Abba in '73 . . . and by his side was the local legend Mulatu Astatke who had studied at Berklee before returning home.

Astatke has, in the past decade, been widely recognised as a unique innovator and has once again brought Ethio-jazz into the public domain, notably with his acolytes in the Heliocentrics band.

The well-known Ethiopiques series of CD releases also brought to attention this music from the late Sixties up to the Soviet-backed military coup overthrew the government in '74.

This easily accessible collection (which pulls from Astatke albums and the Ethiopiques series among others) offers a useful nine-track sampler and introduction to the genre . . . and is extremely persuasive with material like the moody Origin of Man by the Budos Band (contemporary Americans on the Daptone label) or the exotica of Ambassel by Getatchew Mekuria.

So alongside the originators are the faithful followers. But the big picture is of a style of jazz improvisation grounded in gently rocking rhythms, a steady pulse from piano and bass, and saxophones or guitars which never quite sound like the American models but bring a distinctive sound from Eastern African.

Well worth discovering.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Jazz articles index

DAVID S. WARE: The price of free

DAVID S. WARE: The price of free

When the histories of jazz in the 20th century are published one name from the last two decades could loom unnaturally large: Wynton Marsalis. In some books he'll be hailed as the man who... > Read more

The Neil Cowley Trio: Displaced (HideInside/Southbound)

The Neil Cowley Trio: Displaced (HideInside/Southbound)

Frankly, British jazz usually doesn't ring my bell. There have been a few artists (Courtney Pine, Andy Sheppard, Jazz Warriors etc) in the past couple of decades who have made an impact, but... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Ayam Pongteh (Chicken and Potato Stew, Malaysian style)

Ayam Pongteh (Chicken and Potato Stew, Malaysian style)

In late 2007 I spent a couple of weeks travelling around Malaysia -- and notably went to Melaka, the food capital of the country where Baba Nyonya food is a local speciality. Baba Nyonya is the... > Read more

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE QUESTIONNAIRE: Sola Rosa

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE QUESTIONNAIRE: Sola Rosa

As Sola Rosa, Andrew Spraggon has previously brought reggae, Latin, soul and hip-hip into seamless electronica albums which have placed him on the world stage. And on his new album Low and... > Read more