Golden Age Pop – from Ethiopia

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In the late 60s, something extraordinary happened in the Ethiopian capital: the fusion of James Brown funk, military brass bands, Arabic scales, and Hindi film music, with the lilting rhythms and mysterious melodies of traditional Ethiopian music.  It all fell apart after the coup in 1974 that dethroned Emperor Haile Selassie, but while it lasted, “Swinging Addis” experienced a brief Golden Age of Ethiopop.  I fell hard for this music in the mid-80s, when I came across an album by the Ethiopian singer Mahmoud Ahmed.  Now the Debo Band from Boston is issuing their self-titled album, which features two of Ahmed’s songs and a number of other examples of the Ethiopop sound (including one or two that seem to be original songs).

Ahmed was known as a master of the “eskeusta,” the rapid shaking of the shoulders and neck that showed that his listeners had entered into a kind of ecstatic, rapturous state.  The Debo Band is offering a free download of their cover of his “Asha Gedawo.”  Might wanna have the number of a chiropractor handy…