African music

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sun Dec 5 17:33:04 MST 1999

>I enjoyed the posts about Ethiopian music. I kinda grew up with Eritrean
>music myself. My father worked at the dairy in Oslo, and loads of his
>co-workers were Eritreans. My father was a union organiser and a cadre in
>the (Maoist) Workers' Communist Party, and the Eritreans were mostly
>Maoists. When the Eritreans had parties and celebrations we went there, and
>I remember having a very good time dancing and running about. The Eritrean
>food was very hot, but I loved it. Later I've never really heard any such
>music, but I'll go check it out.

I bought the 5 CD's in the Ethiopiques "L'age d'or de la musique
ethiopienne moderne" series (Buda Musique) that David Altman recommended,
and the reissue of Mahmoud Ahmed's classic "Ere Mela Mela" last night. I
listened to volume one this morning, which includes tracks by Ahmed,
Muluqen Mellesse, Seyfu Yohannes, Teshome Meteku, and Getatchew Kassa. It
is simply the greatest music I have heard in ages. Anybody with an interest
in African music should look for this CD. The other thing is that the liner
notes are really knowledgeable and explain the relationship between new
Ethiopian popular music and the political openings in the final years of
the Selassie dictatorship. On a musicological note, it states that an
Austrian named Franz Zelwecker and Nerses Nalbandian, an Armenian, were
instrumetnal in training the key figures in new Ethiopian music. Another
Armenian named Garbis Haygazian imported a reel-to-reel tape recorder and
began selling tapes of live recordings. The Ethiopian who pulled the music
industry scene together was Amha Eshete, who defied a 1948 imperial edict
by starting an independent record company. Although Selassie's goons leaned
on him, he stood his ground. When the Derg "liberated" Ethiopia, they made
it difficult for Eshete to do business. While in the USA to purchase modern
recording equipment, he learned that Tekle Tesfa-Ezghi, a renowned Eritrean
singer, had been jailed for "antinational propaganda", i.e., pro-Eritrea.
That convinced Eshete to stay in the USA. In 1987 the producers of the
series tracked him down and thus began a ten-year project to make this
fabulous music known once again. Look for it in your better record stores.

Louis Proyect
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