Friday, July 29, 2011

Arat Kilo - "A Night In Abyssinia"

Ever since the Ethiopiques CD releases reminded the west about the extraordinary music that could be heard in Addis Ababa in the golden era of the 1960s and early 70s, there has been a flurry of very different fusion bands making use of Ethiopian influences, including this young French five-piece who take their name from an Addis monument. They are good players who mix funky guitar with bass, drums and horns – brass was often a crucial ingredient in the Addis sound – and they have mastered the distinctive, at times Arabic-sounding Ethiopian style. All that's lacking is a sense of energy and fun, especially in their instrumental treatment of a piece by the country's best-loved singer, the late Tlahoun Gèssèssè. Their own Ethiopian-influenced tracks include a jazzy collaboration with the rapper Socalled, but they are at their best when joined by African celebrities. Mulatu Astatke, the veteran "father of Ethio jazz" plays vibes on his own Dewel, while the best track, Get a Chew, is transformed by the exquisite, drifting, Ethiopian-edged vocals from Mali's Rokia Traore. With more help like this, they would sound very good indeed