Monday, May 9, 2011

Speaking in Tongues: Bene Mote

In the years between the end days of emperor Haile Selassie's reign in the sixties and the emergence of a brutal new regime in the mid seventies, the music scene in the poor African country of Ethiopia was flourishing. Tons of groovy records were made in Addis Ababa, in an astonishing diversity of musical styles.

More or less ethnic sounds featuring traditional instruments were en vogue, but you also got funky instrumentals with Stax-like horns, soul singers as inspired as James Brown or Wilson Pickett, and plenty of jazzy stuff to boot. Alèmayèhu Eshèté, Mahmoud Ahmed, Mulatu Astatqé and Tlahoun Gèssèssè were household names, but lesser known singers like Muluqèn Mèlèssè, whose fine Bèné Mote is featured here, could conjure up the magic just as well.

With vocals in the main Ethiopian language of Amharic you probably won't understand a word of it, but that all adds to the mystique. The double disc compilation pictured above would make an excellent starting point for further exploration. You won't be sorry.

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