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Thread: Ethiopian,(Musical Character)

  1. #1
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    Ethiopian,(Musical Character)

    This is what is part of the discussion of Ethiopian Music in another site. Dr. Zaragemca

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    Posted - 30/11/2005 : 19:52:26
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    I really know now that there are a lot of musicians missing the experience.The Ethiopian music is one of the most sophisticated in Africa,which have been followed for some years by Avant Guarded musicians from the Jazz, Classical,and Progressive/Fusion Rock in several countries.The musicians,(Ethiopians), lay down the 6/8 time signature,(which is still not dominated by a lot of musicians),and on top of it create a different metric parameter,(the bass and keybord players),which is having and interaction with the singer,(responding to the singer lyrics),which is not used in any other type of music,(it is like carrying a differents time signature on top of the 6/8 time signature),back and forth...plus the way they use the 5/4 time signature is unique..Dr. Zaragemca (Gerry Zaragemca,is a Master Percussionist,and an authority in Afrocuban Music,and Caribbean, West African Percussion.Author of several articles in relation to percussion,(drums),and music in general.Have performed with South African,Guinean,Senegal,Brazilian,and Ghana percussionists and several Ethiopian Bands.In music for 40 years,and teaching for 17 years.

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    halle1
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    Posted: Wed Nov 30, 2005 9:16 pm

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    Posted - 30/11/2005 : 19:52:26
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    Im interested, could you go in more detail! Looking at the complexity of Amharic, I wouldnt have a hard time believe in the sophisticatedness of ethiopian music. I have heard the Orthodox chatting music as have I listened to Ethiopian Jazz.

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    zaragemca
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    Posted: Thu Dec 01, 2005 4:53 pm

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    Well what happened is that it showed the different cultures which have been influencing that part of Africa when they were moving in and out through centuries.The 6/8 percutive pattern is rooted in West/Africa,(Yorubas/Araras),but the singing is rooted in the Arabic Phrasiology,( which is based in making sense of what it is said,and not in an specific timing of bars), so with the basic 6/8 time signature in the rhythms,they are overimposing a different parameter of metric when they,(Bass and Keybord players),are following and responding to the singers lyrics,which is like carrying two differents time signatures..Dr' Zaragemca

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    You've got to be joking.

    Suggest that interested parties read any/all of the liner notes to any/all of the CDs in the Ethiopiques series. Francis Falceto (the series producer) and all of the other writers who've contributed to the series are incredibly knowledgeable on the subject(s) at hand - which are awfully diverse, as the series goes far beyond Amharic pop music from the area around Addis.

    See http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2859.htm - here's a relevant quote:

    Ethiopia's population is highly diverse. Most of its people speak a Semitic or Cushitic language. The Oromo, Amhara, and Tigreans make up more than three-fourths of the population, but there are more than 77 different ethnic groups with their own distinct languages within Ethiopia. Some of these have as few as 10,000 members. In general, most of the Christians live in the highlands, while Muslims and adherents of traditional African religions tend to inhabit lowland regions. English is the most widely spoken foreign language and is taught in all secondary schools. Amharic is the official language and was the language of primary school instruction but has been replaced in many areas by local languages such as Oromifa and Tigrinya.
    Also, some history (and some matters of debate):

    Herodotus, the Greek historian of the fifth century B.C. describes ancient Ethiopia in his writings. The Old Testament of the Bible records the Queen of Sheba's visit to Jerusalem. According to legend, Menelik I, the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, founded the Ethiopian Empire. Missionaries from Egypt and Syria introduced Christianity in the fourth century A.D. Following the rise of Islam in the seventh century, Ethiopia was gradually cut off from European Christendom. The Portuguese established contact with Ethiopia in 1493, primarily to strengthen their influence over the Indian Ocean and to convert Ethiopia to Roman Catholicism. There followed a century of conflict between pro- and anti-Catholic factions, resulting in the expulsion of all foreign missionaries in the 1630s. This period of bitter religious conflict contributed to hostility toward foreign Christians and Europeans, which persisted into the 20th century and was a factor in Ethiopia's isolation until the mid-19th century.
    etc. ....

    I'm especially skeptical due (among other things) to the fact that no European nation was able to colonize Ethiopia until the Italians invaded in 1935! Western music was known to some (but certainly not all) Ethiopians before then, but very, very few people were able to get any kind of formal training in Western music, let alone other forms of Ethiopian music. (Outside of the upper classes and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, that is.) And many regions of the country are geographically isolated - meaning that large parts of the population have only recently come into contact with Western (and West African) cultural influences.

    This is a good place to start, re. history and other things - the disc has excellent notes, which go far toward clarifiying the short history of outside influences on Ethiopian music, among upper-class Amhara, anyway... And that's a tiny, tiny part of the different cultures/kinds of music found in Ethiopia, Eritrea and neighboring countries in the Horn of Africa.



    So far, music from ethnic groups other than the Amhara has been very hard to come by, but here are a few titles from the Ethiopiques series (there are more):



    (Music of Eritrea, also Tigray music.)

    Both of the anthologies (Rounder Records) feature non-Amharic music, a lot of it very rare. (The titles are a bit misleading, but the cover shots aren't.)





    Here's some info. on the cuts on Vol. 1:

    Ethiopia has many languages and styles of music. These recordings were made in the Empire of Ethiopia in 1971. The Ethiopian urban music was recorded in rooms in Addis Ababa. The instruments are: the masenko, a one-string fiddle; the craar, a gut strung lyre; the bagana, a large lyre; washint flutes; and kabaro drums. The vocal styles include a religious poem accompanied by the bagana and Amharic love poetry sung with craar playing by Mary Armeede. The Afar divination chant and flutes were recorded in the Danakil Desert. The Anuak thumb piano, Nuer harp song and dance drumming were recorded near the Sudan border, and the Konso dance was recorded near the Kenya border.
    Vol. 2 is also a mixture of Amharic and other music: Anuak thumb piano, more Nuer harp, etc. etc. Links and samples on the Rounder site:

    Vol. 1 (http://www.rounder.com/index.php?id=...atalog_id=4022) and Vol. 2 (http://www.rounder.com/index.php?id=...talog_id=4021).

    Just found out about these - music from various parts of southern Ethiopia:





    This, too, though not confined to the south (I think it's out of print, too):


  3. #3

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    Some other suggestions for non-"Ethio-pop" discs:



    This is religious music for voice and lyre - known mainly amongst Amaharic upper class folks (including the late Haile Selassie) and the clergy.

    Amharic azmari music:





    And this singer/krar lyre player:



    There are some Western releases of other kinds of Ethiopian music that are out of print, but I'd guess the best place to start finding available stuff would be in Ethiopian and Eritrean shops.

    Also, I've talked to people who've heard Mahmoud Ahmed live, and they told me that he does a lot of traditional songs with acoustic instrumentation at his gigs. I wish he'd record some of that material!

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    Welcome Clave,I have knowledge of what you espose there,now, what information,(or part of it) which I said in this topic is giving you the impression that I have to be joking in relation to what I said of the Ethiopian Music...note,...(just for you info.There is community of Ethiopians here in Houston and I'm all the time talking to them including a lot of Ethiopian musicians when I have been playing with them,but I was in touch with the Ethiopians since the 1970's when their government sent a lot of them to study in Cuba..Dr. Zaragemca

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    Senior Member Lonson's Avatar
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    I lived in Ethiopia 1966 to 1968 (age 11 through 13 for me). Some of the happiest moments in my life!

    Let the cystras rattle and jingle! Let the harps be plucked! I loved the music that I heard. I've a number of the Ethiopiques series. I also love to hear GiGi sing in any of the contexts she's recorded within here in the States.
    Hey, I speak for myself. For no one else. It's no one else's opinion here but mine. I'm behind it.

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    Did you live in Addis, Lon?

    Also, I'm wondering if you know Aster Aweke's work? She lived in the D.C. area for a long time and literally started out as a waitress - she used to sing to the diners at Axum (1st Ethiopian restaurant in D.C., now long gone) on her breaks.

    (I really like Gigi, too - though I wish she'd work with some other producers!)

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    Grease and oily rag merchant the magnificent goldberg's Avatar
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    I have little knowledge of Ethiopian music. About five or six years ago, my record importer recieved an Ethioopian CD in error and couldn't return it to the supplier, so he gave it to me! It was an album of acapella Jewish liturgical music and the most awful thing I've ever heard in my life! It mainly consisted of a choir of men ululating at random; at least, that was what the first two tracks were like - I sampled a few secs of a few others and they were the same.

    I gave it to a colleague who claimed that she could enjoy anything.

    She hasn't spoken to me since...

    MG

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    Senior Member Lonson's Avatar
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    Yes, Ms Ester, I have a few of her cds here.

    I did live in Addis Ababa, a few blocks behind the Organization of African Unity building.
    Hey, I speak for myself. For no one else. It's no one else's opinion here but mine. I'm behind it.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Lonson's Avatar
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    And I'd like to see GiGi work with others, but I really don't have a problem with Laswell (possibly her husband?) He's done some very interesting stuff over the last decade.
    Hey, I speak for myself. For no one else. It's no one else's opinion here but mine. I'm behind it.

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    yes, he is her husband. I like some of Laswell's projects, but feel like he's been a bit repetive with Gigi's work. there is a CD (very hard-to-find) of hers that he didn't produce, and I'd like to get my hands on it, just to see what it's like.

    I found out about Aster's earliest "gigs" (singing waitress) from a former boss who spent a lot of time in the Ethiopian community. Aster's singing for the restaurant patrons was a regular thing, and my ex-boss had heard her many, many times. I gave her a tape of Aster's 1st LP, and (even though she's a ska fan and used to lots of horns), she wasn't crazy about it, as the a cappella stuff was (she said) so much better.

    Per what she told me, this was equally true of Mahmoud Ahmed and a number of other Ethiopian artists who played D.C. - that their recordings didn't really touch on the repertoire they performed live. She could never understand the reasons for this, and it's always puzzled me, too!

    ****

    Goldberg, if I were you, I'd grab a copy of the disc below and prepare to enjoy myself - James Brown meets Amharic music!


  11. #11
    Grease and oily rag merchant the magnificent goldberg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by clave
    Per what she told me, this was equally true of Mahmoud Ahmed and a number of other Ethiopian artists who played D.C. - that their recordings didn't really touch on the repertoire they performed live. She could never understand the reasons for this, and it's always puzzled me, too!

    ****

    Goldberg, if I were you, I'd grab a copy of the disc below and prepare to enjoy myself - James Brown meet Amharic music!

    OK - will do. Have not bought ONE African record all year (hands tremble). Who is it by? What label's it on? Catno?

    Re Aster and not recording regular material, on one of my visits to Senegambia somewhere I spent an amusing half hour saying "no" to a record dealer who was trying to persuade me to buy Baaba Maal's "Nomad Soul" by telling me, with great enthusiasm, that it was "made specially for white people". Eventually, he had argued his price down to a quarter of the going rate - a game, isn't it? - that I decided he was losing money on the deal and bought the thing. He was right.

    Same's true for Youssou Ndour and quite a few others. There are a good few record producers who think that the only way to turn a profit on what they think of as "World Music" is to tailor it to Western tastes. (Actually, I think Sterns are often like that.)

    MG

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    Well those producers are trying to wider their market,and also trying to attract the young Ethiopian in the U.S.,which are chasing the music coming up in the market..Dr. Zaragemca

  13. #13
    Grease and oily rag merchant the magnificent goldberg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zaragemca
    Well those producers are trying to wider their market,and also trying to attract the young Ethiopian in the U.S.,which are chasing the music coming up in the market..Dr. Zaragemca
    Indeed. However, I have a strong feeling that, in the long term, they may do better by trying a bit less hard. But the desire for a quick buck is a problem in more areas than music, of course.

    MG

  14. #14
    Senior Member Lonson's Avatar
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    Well, I guess I'll just disagree about Laswell. . . I really like his integration of her into his Tabla Beat Science recordings/concerts, and also a few of the "Dub" items that she appears on (I have two, of which I really like "Book of Exit.")

    Gosh I'd really like to visit the Ethiopia I knew. . .but I'd need a time machine. Gosh, for many reasons, I'd really like a time machine!
    Hey, I speak for myself. For no one else. It's no one else's opinion here but mine. I'm behind it.

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by the magnificent goldberg
    OK - will do. Have not bought ONE African record all year (hands tremble). Who is it by? What label's it on? Catno?

    Re Aster and not recording regular material, on one of my visits to Senegambia somewhere I spent an amusing half hour saying "no" to a record dealer who was trying to persuade me to buy Baaba Maal's "Nomad Soul" by telling me, with great enthusiasm, that it was "made specially for white people". Eventually, he had argued his price down to a quarter of the going rate - a game, isn't it? - that I decided he was losing money on the deal and bought the thing. He was right.
    the entire Ethiopiques series is on Buda Musiqe - you might want to take a look at Amazon.co. Just do a search on "Ethiopiques." A lot of the titles are as above (anthologies, too), though some focus on specific singers (like Mahmoud Ahmed). There's also one I don't have that's subtitled "The Negus of Ethiopian Sax," and then there's this one, which features work by Mulatu Astatke (but oddly, he's not mentioned on the cover - for that matter, neither is Duke Ellington, who is on the right-hand side of the cover shot):



    BTW, Aster's 1st album features an Ethiopian band - I think it was simply a bit of an update of the kind of thing that became popular in Addis during the 60s and 70s. (Which is what a lot of the Ethiopiques discs feature, though not all -- there are others mentioned above. I think you'd probably like Vol. 5 - music from Tigray and Eritrea - too.) Also, the Mahmoud Ahmed recordings I mentioned were all made for the Ethiopian market - which is one of the reasons I'm puzzled!

    Also, here's a New York Times article on Astatke that I posted a while back:
    http://forums.allaboutjazz.com/showt...Mulatu+astatke

    Lon, I kind of like Tabla Beat Science! Somehow we seem to "disagree" about artists/styles we both enjoy (Vinicius Cantuaria, for example!)

    Also, goldberg, i wish I knew the album you referred to above (Falasha singing), as I'd rather not get it. (Though there must be better recordings out there somewhere!)

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