Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sleepy Music From Ethiopia

Alèmu Aga Éthiopiques 11: The Harp of King David

This is a somewhat unusual example of the Éthiopiques series, as it has no jazz or funk on it and is instead a record of Ethiopian folk music. Alèmu plays the bèguèna, a stringed instrument, over which he sings. The songs generally take a religious theme, even though the bèguèna is not one of the sanctioned liturgical instruments.

Now, given that the record is called The Harp of King David, you might think you know what the bèguèna sounds like. You would probably be wrong. It does not really sound anything like the traditional harp, Irish or English. Instead the bèguèna makes a strange low-end vibrating sound that comes across like it has been made more by a synthesiser than an acoustic instrument. Combined with Alèmu's whispered vocals, this makes for a rather snoozey record.

Wow, looking at the sleevenotes, it seems like Mr Alèmu is only a part-time musician, and he runs a shop in the Piazza area of Addis Ababa, keeping the harp in the back room. I could have gone and got him to play me his music, except that the Piazza is one of AA's many stinky areas.

Oh wait, I've already reviewed this.

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