Alemayehu Eshete, Ethiopiques Volume 9: Alemayehu Eshete

Jessica Hopper

By Jessica Hopper

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Ethiopiques Volume 9: Alemayehu Eshete

Alemayehu Eshete

Volume nine of the Ethiopiques series serves as both a comprehensive overview and cheat sheet-introduction to the work of vocalist and bandleader Alemayehu Eshete. Often called the Elvis of Ethio-pop, a more appropriate reference might be James Brown: Eshete is much more of a dynamic personality than a song stylist. This compilation covers his earlier work, in which traditional North African melodies are woven with piano-based boogie-thump cribbed from the American R&B charts. The later, mid-'60s tracks see the rock & swing party music giving way to a thick, distinctive Afro-dance sound — a rich multiple sax backline duels it out with percolating Farfisa organ, plaintive piano meditations towing the straight funk-shimmy of the rhythm section. Eshete's choked, tremulous high-register trilling now turns to firm crooning on spare, mournful ballads ("Qotechegn Messasate," "Eruq Yeleshew"). Recommended for novices, Fela fans and those looking for something to spice up their dance parties and DJ sets.