Our favourite Ethiopian albums of 2012
At Addis Rumble we do not want to lag behind in the ever-intensifying end-of-year-list race. However, we will not overcompensate with endless top 100 lists but will restrict our endeavour to a few areas not covered by dozens of other bloggers out here. We are kicking off with our favorite Ethiopian albums of 2012 and will follow up with a review of the best art and culture experiences that were to be found in Addis during the past year.
Debo Band: Debo Band (Sub Pop)
Krar Collective: Ethiopia Super Krar (World Music Network/Riverboat Records)
It is time to call off the search for the heir to Asnaketch Worku, the legendary Ethiopian Krar player who died in 2011. The debut by Krar Collective, a London-based trio consisting of Temesgen Zeleke, Robel Taye and Genet Assefa, was another pleasant surprise in 2012. Most of the songs on Ethiopia Super Krar are rearranged versions of traditional songs from the various regions of Ethiopia, and there is a well-balanced mix between ballads and up-tempo songs with Oromigna and Konso being the stand-out tracks. Approaching the traditional sounds of Ethiopia via Ethiopia Super Krar is highly recommended.
Yeshi Demelash: Qene (Adika)
It was the stunning Qene video that made us aware of Yeshi Demelash. And while the title track does stand out, the rest of Yeshi’s debut album is more than decent and does underline her status as arguably the most talented contemporary female Ethiopian jazz singer. Yeshi is already working on her sophomore record and she will soon start performing regularly at Jazzamba in Addis. We are looking forward to hearing more to Yeshi.
Getachew Mekuria + The Ex + Friends: Y’Anbessaw Tezeta (Terp Records)
We truly hope that Y’anbessaw Tezeta is not the final album by the 76-year old Ethiopian tenor saxophone legend Getachew Mekuria. But if this were to be so, it would be a superb swan song for the old lion and his many collaborations with Dutch punk veterans The Ex. Released 5 years after Moa Anbessa, Y’anbessaw Tezeta contains a collection of ethio-punk folk songs and ballads along with an extra CD of historical recordings of Getachew and a 40-page booklet.
Samuel Yirga: Guzo (Real World)
Another surprise of 2012 was the debut by young Ethiopian pianist and composer Samuel Yirga. We knew Samuel from his performances with Nubian Arc and Dub Colossus, but his mesmerizing solo record blew us away. It is a difficult album to classify. Definitely Ethiopian Jazz but also so much more, it slowly unfolds and showcases Samuel’s incredible talent. The solo piano tunes are pleasantly meditative while the more upbeat tracks feature generally successful collaborations with vocalists such as British-Iraqi singer Mel Gara, the Creolo Choir of Cuba and Nigerian-British singer Nicolette. The greatest revelation in Ethiopian music this year.
So these are our favourite Ethiopian albums of the year. However, we probably did miss out on lots of good releases. So tell us about your favourite new Ethiopian albums in the comment box below. We are sure there are yet undiscovered gems to be explored.