It is hard to overstate just how good the series of recording released as Ethiopiques is. Listening to them is a shock, but a good shock!
Somehow this great variety of recordings were made – and even more amazingly, saved – celebrating all types of Ethiopian music from traditions unique to certain areas to fusions with jazz and funk.
On first hearing, to European ears, there often seems something ‘wrong’ about a lot of these tracks. Musicalogically speaking, this no doubt has something to do with the unresolved quality of music built on pentatonic scales. Whatever the cause, once you get used to the shift, the music really grabs you.
If I had to recommend just one of the 14 or so I would pick Ethiopiques Volume 4: Ethio Jazz & Musique Instrumentale 1969-1974 – a superb jazz record with a haunting quality but to be honest they are all great.
If you do develop a taste for the music of Ethiopia, don’t forget to try the restaurant on Goldhawk Road in London anytime after about 11pm on a friday for live late night grooves with the local Ethiopian community. Polished it ain’t though so be warned.
You can download the lot from emusic or buy from somewhere like Sterns at around 13 quid a pop.