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Leonel Manzanares de la Rosa writes bars that kick like Pele.
Everything — music, art, the human species itself — began in Africa. From that dawn of humanity, African people have shaped all cultural manifestations on Earth. Since the African peoples were first brought to the American continent during the slave trade, the cultures of this new colonial world have been undeniably defined by the influences of the Black population.
Absolutely all forms of modern popular music can trace their origins to both the African-American spiritual tradition and the Afro-Creole Caribbean folklore. But as blackness was building the cultural landscape everywhere it went, the African motherland maintained and further developed a rich and impressively diverse universe of sights, scents, tastes, and sounds, and in the 20th Century, when the mother culture and its offspring made contact, it resulted in such a powerful creative explosion, it can still be felt to this day, perhaps even stronger now.
Of all the African nations, ancient or modern, Ethiopia was the only one that was never colonized by European powers — Italy famously tried and failed, twice. This prompted the Pan-African movement to elevate Emperor Haile Selassie to the status of a deity, created the Rastafarian religion, and put Ethiopia in the eyes of the world. The conquering Lion of Judah. As an entire continent was moving towards modernity, and Western influences informed the daily reality of Africans, Ethiopia developed an eclectic and exciting music scene, and as recording technology and Western instrumentation reached the nation, they began to look at the sound of Black America — R&B, Gospel, Blues, but most importantly, Jazz — and combined it with the ancestral styles and musical systems of their hundreds of distinct ethnic groups. The result was the 1960s-1970s golden age, the belle epoque.
This Black History Month mix explores many of these effervescent manifestations; the official orchestras, owned by the government (at the time, private ownership of big bands and record labels was not permitted), that introduced legendary singers like Mahmoud Ahmed, jazz titans like sax colossus Getatchew Mekurya, the music of people groups like the Oromo, the Gurage, and the Konso, the work of classical music virtuoso Emahoy Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou, the first excursions into funk, and the predecessors of today’s Ethiopian urban music. This wonderful nation has much more to offer, and we need to start recognizing African music and its legacy, supporting the artists and record labels working today, and knowing the History of the cultures that built the whole world around us.
- Emahoy Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou – “Golgotha”
- Tesfa-Maryam Kidane – “Heywete”
- Fedaqu Amde-Mesqel – “Asmarina”
- Girma Hadgu – “Ene Alantchi Alnorem”
- Ayalew Mesfin & Black Lion Band – “Feqer Aydelem Wey”
- Tamrat Ferendji & Sensation Band – “Ya djaleleto”
- Getatchew Mekurya – “Gofere-Antchi Hoye”
- Seyfou Yohannes – “Metche Dershe”
- Getatchew Kassa & Soul Ekos Band – “Bey Lesenabetesh”
- Seyoum Gebreyes & Alem-Girma Band – “Yagere Djegna”
- The Ashantis – “I Wanna Do My Thing”
- Abbebe Hayle-Michael – “Qondjitye”
- Gemetchu Itana – “Shemermari Tiya”
- Ali Mohammed Birra – “Waa Silleen Indararuu”
- Kabaula Kossa – “Daletya”
- Orchestra Ethiopia – “Senbet”
- Mahmoud Ahmed – “Alemye”
- Mellesse Bonger & Tchista Band – “Leben Antchin Alena-Air Gourague”
- Tigist Assefa – “Toutouye”
- Melesse Asmamaw – “Ethiopia Hagere”
- Admassou Abate – “Ambassel”
- Girma Beyene & Akale Wube – “Muziqawi Silt”