Album Review

Ethiopian Urban and Tribal Music [coll] – [Sub Rosa]

Medusa of Troy   11/2/2021   CD, International

This 2-CD set of Ethiopian folk music was released in July 2020 by the Sub Rosa label, but the songs were originally recorded in 1971. Even though the album title makes reference to urban and tribal music, all of the songs are very stripped down – some with just a single instrument, others with one instrument and one voice. There are a couple of group chants, but nearly all of the songs are on the quieter side. The liner notes are unclear, but it has the feel and sound of field recordings – no amps, no studio effects, just traditional instruments and voices on traditional songs – some explicitly religious, some based on poetry. Mary Armeede’s “Fanno,” on CD2, is the longest track and has a bluesy feel that brings to mind early Mississippi Delta blues. “Wub Allem” (translated as “Beautiful World”) is the most energetic track but is not particularly loud or raucous. However, no dirges, either – just spare, lovely music on the slower side.

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