Timeless Ethio Jazz

For my birthday this year, I bought myself Volume 1 of the 27-volume Ethiopiques CDs. I’ve loved listening to the various albums online at random times and in a random order. But my goal is to own the entire collection some day, a process that I’m sure will take lots of time and burn a nice little hole in my wallet. I’ve got a long journey ahead but with each purchase, I’ll enter music heaven. Here’s one of my favorites from the first CD, Seyfu Yohannes’ upbeat Mela Mela:

The voice behind another favorite on the album, Gara Ser New Betesh, was recently interviewed by Tadias magazine for a three-part series. Teshome Meteku has had quite an adventurous life since he left Ethiopia in 1970 to live in Sweden for 20 years and finally settle in the U.S. Great interviews. Here’s part one, part two and part three.

Tadias also interviewed the brilliant French man who fell in love with Ethio jazz and conceptualized the whole Ethiopiques series. Read about Francis Falceto.

Speaking of Ethio jazz, guess what I just ordered and am ridiculously excited about? Debo Band’s debut CD. Who is this Debo Band, you ask?

Debo Band

Debo Band is a 11-member group led by Ethiopian-American saxophonist Danny Mekonnen and fronted by charismatic vocalist Bruck Tesfaye. Since their inception in 2006, the band have toured Ethiopia twice, having appeared at both the Ethiopian Music Festival in Addis Ababa and Sauti Za Busara in Zanzibar, the largest music festival in East Africa. In North America, they’ve shared stages with Gogol Bordello, The Family Stone, Tilahun Gessesse (one of the great voices of Ethiopian pop since the 60’s), The Ex with Ethiopian sax legend Getatchew Mekuria, Group Doueh, and Khaira Arby and Her Band.

And what does “debo” even mean? It’s an old Amharic word that means “communal labor or collective effort.” They’re a group of musicians “reinventing” Ethio jazz and infusing their own fresh flavor while retaining the old timeless sounds. Here’s a snippet of what they sound like:

Pretty amazing, huh? Do yourself a favor and read this wonderful piece Siddhartha Mitter wrote on them as part of the album liner notes. Now that’s some good writing. To learn more about Debo Band, check out this interview (Tadias is on it!).

If you live in DC, Debo Band will perform this Saturday at U Street Music Hall. More info here.

I’m grateful to have such good music to keep my mind lifted. I hope you enjoy as much as I do.

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