Listen to Enamarilen by Yegna.
In November I was asked to work on an album by Ethiopian musicians that was being released to support a multimedia campaign by DFID and the Nike Foundation.
We spent two weeks working with producer Abegasu Shiota, recording backing-tracks with Addis’ finest musicians, and, as it turns out, they were pretty fine.
Due to musicians’ schedules and space in the studio, we tracked everyone separately to guide tracks. The songs encompassed a whole range of genres, from Reggae to Rock, to traditional Ethiopian, which was quite challenging, as we were extremely limited in the instruments we could use.
We were told that due high import duties (which may or may not include bribes), any kind of hardware such as guitar amps and drum kits were extremely expensive and hard to come by for local musicians, and most guitarists didn’t even own amps and would just use DI’s on stage.
However, the playing standard was easily comparable to any of the top London session musicians that we regularly work with, playing beautifully and learning parts quickly.
Addis has a really vibrant jazz and traditional music scene, with several gigs on every night, in dark, atmospheric clubs that actually feel like jazz clubs, such as Jazzamba, situated in what used to be the art-deco ballroom of Addis’ oldest hotel. This must be part of the reason why the city supports such huge musical talents, as we were told that the consumer market for recorded music is virtually non-existent, although music on the radio is very popular.
Many of the musicians we worked with are also part of the acclaimed world music group Addis Acoustic Project, whose debut album on Harmonia Mundi is available here.