Most English-speaking non-Ethiopians who’ve come to Ethiopian music recently probably got there via Francis Falceto’s series of classic releases, the Ethiopiques. If you’re one of those people and you’re looking around for something to occupy yourself with ‘til the next one comes out, then In Search of My Roots might be worth your while. Roots is not the folk album that the cover and title imply. Here we have sunny mild-funk brass, breezy keyboard pop, and pan-African guitar, combined with Ethiopian music’s usual weird and delicious stagger, the crisp crepe wriggle of the voices, the handclaps that sound like handclaps from nowhere else. Abiyou Solomon’s songs are sometimes on the lightweight side. Still, there are moments when it all comes together and then we can hear the ineffable concentric drag, powerful, strange, and somehow always just out of reach, that prompted Jim Jarmusch to put Ethiopians on the soundtrack of Broken Flowers. “Kelala New Betu” even makes vocoders sound good.
// Notes from the Road
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