This kind of Ethiopian Jazz Funk has had a resurgence in the West with adventurous musicians who use it as a base to create their own provocative new music. Listen to 2 Spotify playlists that highlight impressive Ethiopian music from the originators of this style, as well as the young bands in Europe & the US that keep the vibe alive, and create their unique take on Ethiopian Jazz Funk. Watch live music videos of potent performances with some of these astonishing artists…
Watch the legendary Mulatu Astatke & the out-of-this-world
Heliocentrics live doing “Yekermo Sew”
Come on a journey to a dark, exotic jazz bar in the swinging sixties of Addis Ababa, by way of this Ethio Cool #1 Spotify playlist…
Exhilarating, Exotic Ethiopian Music
Ethiopian music — East African music — too often gets overshadowed by West African music in World music circles. West African music, especially Nigerian music — Afrobeat, Highlife, JuJu…as well as music from Mali…tend to get more attention from Westerners.
Ethiopian music, however, is just as exciting in its own right. It has a more exotic feel to it. The music we’ll explore here is based on the Ethiopian Jazz Funk of the 1960s & 70s. The Ethiopian musicians blend their traditional musical styling with mellow jazz horns, funky organs, and wah-wah pedal guitars. They sing in Amharic.
The current Western musicians you’ll meet in these playlists don’t sing. It’s instrumental music, unless they employ an Ethiopian singer. They take their inspiration from the great players of the swinging Addis Ababa scene of old, and make it sound modern and fascinating. Enjoy the journey…
We’ll start off this first Spotify playlist with one you might know — the Dengue Fever cover version of an Ethiopian classic featured in the Jim Jarmusch/Bill Murray film, Broken Flowers.
Then get into “Selassie Strut” off the Funk Ark’s brilliant album, Man Is A Monster. It was one of the Best Albums of 2014 for good reason.
Antibalas made one song so good they had to make into two tracks.
Listen to “Meva” from Vaudou Game, a France-Togo African Funk band. Their lead singer, Peter Solo, says that in his native Togo, some of the musical scales of vodun music are similar to those of Ethiopia, which is why this song sounds like it’s inspired by Ethiopian music, even though it’s West African.
Hear music from the godfathers of Ethio-Cool — Mulatu Astatke & Hailu Mergia — showing us that Ethiopian Jazz is unique & how it’s done best.
Hailu Mergia has a fascinating story of going from a successful musician in Ethiopia to a cab driver in Washington DC. Nowadays, he enjoys a resurgence in popularity from curious lovers of funky music from around the world, like you. All thanks to Awesome Tapes From Africa. Read his fascinating story here.
Excellent Ethiopian Music…From France
Then, hear some wonderful songs from Akalé Wubé. I love these guys from Paris — definitely check them out more! Here is their story from their website bio:
“In their 6 years of existence, Akalé Wubé have never stopped widening the canvas onto which they lay their music, which keeps becoming richer and deeper just like the their primary source of inspiration: the popular Ethiopian repertoire of the 60s and 70s.
The band started off covering music from the “Ethiopiques” series, after which they immersed themselves deeper into Ethiopian music, all the while multiplying their collaborations with musicians and dancers from Ethiopia, Africa and Europe.
Slowly but surely, clocking in at around 200 concerts in Europe, Asia and Africa, the band has become one of the world’s leading ambassadors of Ethiopian groove.
Akalé Wubé has released three albums, “Akalé Wubé”, “Mata” and “Sost”, all critically acclaimed by critics and both have been featured on numerous compilations.”
Watch a stunning live performance of Akalé Wubé in Addis Ababa. The dancers are incredible. This must have been one fun night!
Ethiopian Music Heads West
Much of the music here isn’t made in Ethiopia, but is heavily influenced by it. Ethiopian Jazz has made a big impact on underground musicians since the release of the remarkable Ethiopiques collections.
Ethiopian musicians created a truly distinctive sound in the swinging heyday of Addis Ababa of the 60s & 70s. Based on Jazz, traditional Ethiopian music, and other interesting influences these amazing musicians made music that sets a uniquely cool mood when you hear it.
No wonder today’s most distinctive, diverse, genre-bending musicians want to incorporate it into their repertoire and make it into something new & sensational.
For example, Ethio Cali, a Los Angeles-based Ethio-Jazz ensemble, led by trumpeter, arranger, and composer Todd Simon. The ensemble’s sublime sound is inspired by the golden age of Ethiopian music of the 1960’s and 70’s, filtered through a lens that is uniquely Los Angeles. In fact, click here for a free download, via the Paris DJs website, of a special mix of Ethiopian classics curated by Ethio Cali Ensemble’s Sonny Abegaze.
Watch Todd Simon’s Ethio Cali Ensemble perform live in Los Angeles…
Taking you back to a dark, smoky bar in 1971 Addis Ababa…
with another Spotify playlist for you…Ethio Cool #2
Our second Spotify playlist returns us to Ethiopia on a warm, exotic wind…via a wondrous tune from Ethiopiques Vol. 4 (my favorite edition). We hear some classics, as well as more Ethiopian Jazz Funk inspired new ones from today’s worldly-wise musicians.
Hear a delicious Ethiopian inspired tune from the early Budos Band.
Get into some more Akale Wube, including a couple from their remarkable Sost album, one of the best of 2014.
Also discover a terrific tune from genre-bending master, Shawn Lee.
You’ll also hear an amazing track from Nostalgia 77 & Prince Fatty, as well as more Ethiopian Jazz flavored tunes from today’s most adventurous bands.
Then, we close out Ethio Cool #2 with one from the great Mulatu Astatke.
Go On A Musical Adventure To Ethiopia
Remember, AfroPop Worldwide is the best place to learn about the music of the African Diaspora. Listen to their fascinating podcasts about Ethiopian music — Part 1 here & Part 2 here. You can learn a lot about Ethiopia through its music on these programs (and not have to travel so far).
Fortunately, for all of us lovers of exotic music, Ethio-Jazz is having a resurgence in the capital, Addis Ababa. In time, the music of this new generation of musicians will emanate to the West. Much of the resurgence is due to Mulatu Astake’s radio show there, which has turned on a new generation of Ethiopians to this marvelous music.
If you can’t wait for the music to come to you, a musical adventure in Ethiopia could be in order. You can visit Mulatu Astake’s club African Jazz Village, at the historic Ghion Hotel. Read this excellent article to learn more about the Addis Ababa music scene. You’ll want to go there after reading it 😉
Check out the incredible story of Beirut Groove Collector founder, Ernesto Chahoud, in Flea Market Funk. This is the extreme side of a musical adventure record hunting in Addis Ababa.
What do you think of this mind-blowing music from Ethiopia, and the current cool Ethiopian inspired music in the West?
Let us know in the comments below…