Krar Collective: Ethiopia Super Krar
The Queen of Krar might be dead but Krar Collective is here to carry on the legacy.
It is only appropriate that Ethiopia Super Krar, the debut album by London-based Krar Collective, is dedicated to Asnaketch Worku, the legendary Ethiopian actress and Krar player who died in 2011 (do not miss out the compilation of Asnaketch recordings on Ethiopiques 16, The Lady with the Krar). And in case there has been a search going on to find the suitable heirs of Asnaketch, it is time to call it off.
Most of the songs on Ethiopia Super Krar are rearranged versions of traditional songs, especially from south and central Ethiopia. Krar Collective also pays their tribute to Worku as her classic Ende Eyrusalem ballad finishes off the album. But it is the more up-tempo songs such as Oromigna and Konso that show the true format of Krar Collective. The instrumental Mr. Astatke is another highlight.
The live line-up of Krar Collective might be quite minimalistic with bandleader and lyre champion Temesgen Zeleke accompanied only by Robel Taye on homemade kebero drums and the gorgeous voice of Genet Assefa. However, on the studio recordings the addition of typical azmari instruments as the masingo, flutes as well as a bass krar creates a comprehensive and varied sound.
Krar Collective has been touring heavily across the Europe and North America the past year and has blown away many a Western audience unaccustomed to the traditional sounds and dance of Ethiopia. For the listener familiar with Ethiopian tunes and the Azmari culture, the group does not have the same effect. But you can still get hooked on the melodic and poignant sound of Krar Collective. More importantly, the trio does manage to strike the difficult balance between modernising a more than thousand year old musical practice and not losing the relevance nor the authenticity of the Ethiopian krar. Hopefully, this will guarantee Krar Collective an audience abroad as well as in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia Super Krar is out September 10 on Riverboat Records/World Music Network.
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