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Compared to the high profile that West Africa has on the world music scene, East Africa has remained very much in the shadows. In the case of Ethiopia, there are political reasons for this. A golden age of Ethiopian music was brought to an end by the Mengistu dictatorship (1974-1991), during which many musicians emigrated, and the haunting, infectious and wildly seductive music scene in Ethiopia is as a result little-known outside the country.
What we do know is largely thanks to the energetic work of Francis Falceto and his hugely admired Éthiopiques compilations for Buda (no less than 20 volumes!); an album series that inspired what is unquestionably the most important tour of Ethiopian music ever seen out of its homeland. The Éthiopiques live show unites four of the biggest stars of Ethiopia's golden age; Mahmoud Ahmed, Mulatu Astatqé, Alèmayèhu Eshèté and Gétatchèw Mékurya, who perform their best known works accompanied by a10 piece band. Having debuted at London's Barbican and performed as a headline act at both Glastonbury Festival and Ireland's Festival of World Cultures, they will be available internationally during the summer of 2009.
Since the European release of 'Eré Mèla Mèla' (1986 Crammed Discs / expanded and remastered 1999 Buda Musique), Mahmoud Ahmed along with Aster Aweke and Gigi, is without doubt the Ethiopian artist least unknown to the western public. This influential album, originally released in Ethiopia in 1975, was for years the only example of modern Ethiopian music known in the 'west' and has been praised by critics from the New Musical Express to The New York Times.
Music, in particular, plays a strong integrating role in Ethiopian society and Mahmoud is a true veteran of the scene; he began appearing with the Imperial Bodyguard Band in 1962-63 and has never stopped since, accompanied by just about every Ethiopian musician of note. His "melancholy blues, piercingly minimalist country airs, brassy, danceable urban jazz, heart-wrenching, off-key crooners: a rich and stirring patchwork of sounds, crossing afro-beat, latino-swing moves and Eastern arabesques" (Anaïs Prosaïc) have, more recently, been reappraised with acclaimed, energetic performances at Womad, and as a well-deserved and popular winner of the 'Africa' category at the BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music in 2007.
The artists performing with Ethiopiques will be accompanied by Badume's Band
(Biography supplied by artist's agent)
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