World Music is a tricky dick. Occasionally good, usually more of a novelty, the label often compels reviewers to gush without reason. I feel no duty to endorse a recording merely because it has third world provenance. I want to be entertained, not impressed with a back story. I say this because I want you to believe me when I go nuts over this completely awesome album by the Debo Band.
The band’s website informs me that back in the ‘60’s there was a pop Jazz scene inEthiopiacentered in the capitolAddis Ababa. Eventually it crumbled when the usual third world plagues dragged that fine nation back toward Hobbesian unpleasantness. Luckily, a few records and musicians got out and made their way toAmerica. The members of the Debo Band are not these musicians. The Band is a multi-racial collective inspired by these remnants of the Ethiopian scene. “Inspired” is the key word. This is not a mere replica but a progression from what was.
The album kicks into gear right away with “Akale Wube”. A classic late 60’s horn hook evokes some movie one can’t quite remember. I picture men in black suits and skinny ties sit in dark, smoky clubs drinking and scheming. Various instruments get their turns at soloing, but it becomes quickly apparent that the violin is the highlight. The Debo Band’s webpage make it clear that their instrumentation is more eclectic than classic Ethiopian Jazz.. If the Ethiopians didn’t use violins they should have. A bowed instrument’s ability for quick, unbroken legato runs fits this perfectly, especially given the various near-eastern scales that infect the composition.
The second song “Ney Ney Weleba” marks the entrance of lead vocalist Bruck Tesfaye. Apparently the concept of the crooner or the vocal hook never really took hold over there. The frenzied vocals aren’t really my thing, but they are a minor chink in this amazing album. Soon the music takes over and I am again swinging my way through exotic locales. Of particular note is the bizarre Mohammedan tango of “Yekefer Wegagene” and the hipster lounge of “And Lay.” Get this record.
Tags: a.d. terbush, Debo Band, Debo Band - Debo Band album review, Reviews