Hailu Mergia & The Walias Band (with Mulatu Astatké) – Tche Belew

October 5, 2010

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Did you know that during the 1970s — a span of ten years! — there were only three instrumental Ethiopian albums recorded and released on vinyl? It’s true. Well, if the Internet says it’s true, then it’s true. I trust the Afro-pop websites way more than I trust my instincts. More than that, even, I trust Francis Falcetto, the mastermind behind the Ethiopiques series. He describes Ethiopia as a vastly misunderstood country. It is unique in regards to its topography (green landscape, highlands that act as a natural fortress), religion (Catholic since the early 4th century, long before Catholicism took over Europe or the Americas), and language (Ge’ez, a Semitic language whose derivations are related to it in the same was French, Spanish, and Italian are related to Latin). It took until the late 1960s for independent bands to form, but by that time the musicians of Ethiopia had decades to practice and understand theory. After learning of Western music from peace corp volunteers and military radio stations, the state run radio stations decided to slowly liberate the airwaves, so to speak, and allow more popular Western music to reach Ethiopians. Combine that with the natural generational divides we see in the history of every other country in the world, and you’ve got a powder keg of ridiculously great music waiting to explode.

Mulatu Astatké was the first musician of his generation to study abroad. He attended Berklee College of Music in Boston. He brought his fondness for jazz and Latin music back to Africa, and — even before renowned musicians like Fela Kuti — was recording “modern” African music. He continued to compose and produce records into the ’70s, which is when Hailu Mergia recorded Tche Belew. The album was released in 1977, and features Mulatu on the track “Musical Silt.” Many Ethiojazz and Ethiopian pop fans consider it to be one of his greatest contributions to Ethiopian music. I’m not that well versed, so I couldn’t say definitively, but I think it’s great.

Tche Belew is a fairly unknown album by most fans’ standards. Which, naturally, makes it supremely hard to find. And original copies are quite valuable. Just two days ago the LP sold for $4,250 on eBay. Take a listen and you’ll realize why it’s such a sought after gem from an amazing period in the history of recorded music.

Hailu Mergia & The Walias Band (with Mulatu Astatké)
Tche Belew
(Kaifa, 1977)
MediaFire DL Link

01. Tche Belew
02. Yemiasleks Fikir
03. Yikirta Lemminalehu
04. Musical Silt
05. Lomi Tera-tera
06. Woghenei
07. Ibakish Tarekigne
08. Birukane
09. Eti Gual Blenai
10. Yenuro Tesfa Alegne

5 comments

  1. luca
    |

    thank you!!!

  2. Yaman
    |

    Yeah! Ethiopian pop sucks magic out the air, ferments it and blasts it back out again! Dankie baie

  3. Holly
    |

    This is wonderful. Wonderful, I say! Thank you.

  4. Anatole Maggiar
    |

    Wooooow, you just blew my mind away.

    I landed on your blog looking for some Cressida, found your Collector scum section and just spent the best 5 minutes and 8 seconds of my whole life listening to “Lisa” by the aforementioned band. You write super well too -you have a real “voice” in a journalistic sense. What a pleasure to find such an amazing music blog on the internet. I’m 20 and you’ve changed my life forever.

    Thank you, I’m eternally in debt.

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