In the early 70s, the Ethiopian scene was bubbling with activity. A handful of sublime musicians were in the process of giving birth to a form of jazz of their own, a crossbreeding, at the crossroads of traditional Ethiopian music (known as azmari), psychedelic jazz, acid funk, Latin music and Soul, all the musical styles that were popular in East Africa at the time. Among these gentlemen were vibraphonist Mulatu Astatke (known as the father of ethio-jazz), saxophonist Getatchew Mekurya (who would later collaborate with Dutch post-punk band The Ex in one of the most inventive crossovers I've ever heard) and above all: singer Mahmoud Ahmed, often referred to as the "James Brown" of Ethiopia (!).
Towards the end of the 90s, the Parisian label "Buda" had the very cool idea of exploring this fascinating movement in a glorious series of reissues/compilations with the sweet name of "Éthiopiques". As soon as you see this name on the cover, BUY and LISTEN to this record because it will always be something splendid. The 7th volume of Éthiopiques is in fact the CD version of one of Mahmoud Ahmed's best discographic offerings, "Erè mèla mèla", originally released in 1975. From the very first minutes of the title track, we are literally transported to another land by an unusual and bewitching groove. Mahmoud's powerfully soulful voice dominates a thick Arab-jazzy-bollywood sound swamp woven of smoky brass, vintage nightclub organ, oriental percussion, muffled bass and funky guitars that one would say straight out of a particularly salacious porn movie. Everything here is delicious. The lo-fi, vaguely crispy sound of the recording adds a lot to the authenticity of the experience.
Among the highlights: "Ohoho gèdama" will give you a clever little thrill worthy of the best opiates. "Sedètègnash nègn" will make you dance metaphorically in a glowing mephistophelic jungle, where all the surrounding sounds combine to an inevitable paroxysm that never comes. The languorous "Ashèwèyna" will satisfy all your most secret Egyptian-funk desires with its panacea roundness. This album can be used as a great background music for your evenings with friends, but can also be listened to on headphones at 2 o'clock in the morning, when sleep escapes you and you still want to dream of indomitable elsewhere. This little marvel is the ideal gateway to this intriguing music scene. But watch out for the wallet! As soon as you buy an "Éthiopiques", you'll want to buy a second one, a third one, and so on... To quote the credits of the famous Pokemon series: "Gotta Catch 'Em All!"