Jun 28, 2010

Alèmayèhu Eshèté - Éthiopiques Vol. 9

Alemayehu Eshete is an Ethiopian Ethio-jazz singer active since the 1960s who primarily sings in Amharic. Eshete's talent was recognized by colonel Rètta Dèmèqè who invited the young singer to perform with Addis Ababa's famous Police Orchestra. Eshete had his first hit ("Seul") in 1961 before moving on to found the orchestra Alèm-Girma Band with Girma Bèyènè. Over the course of 15 years, Eshete released some 30 singles until the arrival of the communist Derg junta, which forced Eshete and many other artists into exile.

Alemayehu Eshete has since gained fame in Europe and the Americas with the release of Buda Musique's Ethiopiques series of compilations on compact disc. Ethiopiques Volume 9 is devoted entirely to recordings of Eshete's earlier music, and Volume 22 covers his career between 1972 and 1974. Other songs have also appeared on Volumes 3, 8, 10, and 13 or the series. In 2008 Eshete toured the United States with fellow Ethiopian singer Mahmoud Ahmed, backed by Boston's 10-piece Either/Orchestra.


This disc offers 22 tracks from the man once known as the Ehtiopian James Brown. Like the others in the series, the music here is funk-tinged with Armenian overtones. Like most of the other volumes, this one is a stone blast all the way through. Eshete was a soul singer in the classic tradition. He didn't so much sing to his audience as seduce it, working himself and his fans into a sweat-soaked frenzy. Fans of the series might remember this man from Volume 8. If you liked the sound of that, give this a try. If you haven't been hipped to this series yet, there are worse places to start. This disc is a perfect example of what the rest of the series has to offer; ferocious horns, groovy guitar licks and a definite Mideast influence that reminds one of the early days of rai, back before they discovered the synthesizer. Anyone with a passion for funk or the sound of '70s Africa should pick up this set.


Volume 9 of the wonderful ETHIOPIQUES series released by the French label Buda Musique collects recordings from singer Alemayehu Eshete made during the late 1960s and '70s. An enormous force in Ethiopian pop music on par with Elvis and James Brown in the Unites States, Alemayehu broke with tradition and infused his music with soul, blues, and rock & roll. While the various backing bands here lay down some slick grooves that wouldn't sound out of place on American soul-jazz records, Alemayehu's singing will sound disarming to almost anyone not already familiar with the Ethiopian style. The contrast, however, between the familiar horn-and-organ driven Afro-funk and Alemayehu's wildly modulating vocal lines, odd harmonics, and rapid-fire phrasing makes for a truly unique listening experience.



1. Addis Abeba Bete
2. Yeweyn Haregitu
3. Qondjit
4. Yelben Betayiw
5. Yesew Bet Yesew New
6. Mekeyershin Salawq
7. Qotchegn Messassate
8. Eruq Yaleshew
9. Shegitu Mare
10. Yeweb Dar
11. Telantena Zare
12. Memar Memeramer
13. Tedesteshal Wey?
14. Denyew Deneba
15. Temhert Bete
16. Nefas Indaygeban
17. Leb Tatefaletch
18. Feqer Feqer New
19. Gizew Honeshenna
20. Heywete Abatey New
21. Ya Tara
22. Timarkyalesh

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