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Ethio-jazz's Anbessa Orchestra Aim For a Better Day on "Tch'elema" (premiere)

Photo: Cristhian Istúriz

Urgent new track "Tch'elema" sees Brooklyn's Anbessa Orchestra expressing a chaotic moment through Ethio-jazz sounds.

In terms of sheer function, music is a cornucopia of nearly endless possibilities. Different pieces serve different purposes for different people, all depending on different cultural contexts, always part of a larger expressive whole. For Anbessa Orchestra, Brooklyn-based and Ethio-jazz-inspired, music can express a moment like this one - even in all its chaos.

"Things look pretty grim," says guitarist and songwriter Nadav Peled, "and I wanted to write something to let it out."

From such worries springs new single "Tch'elema (Darkness)", an urgent track driving forward through a troubled era, marred, as Peled notes, by such emergencies as "the United States administration, a growing number of natural disasters due to climate change, refugee crises worldwide…"

It's a beastly list, but not one too heavy for the seven-piece group to take on headfirst. Dor Heled's dizzying keyboards rise in slender, neon waves, bolstered by saxophonists Eyal Vilner and Eden Bareket and anchored by the subtle bass and persistent drums of Ran Livneh and Eran Fink, respectively. For all the time the synths spend taking center stage, it's when Heled takes a momentary step back that Wayne Tucker's trumpet bellows in a solo laced with unspoken meaning. That invincible spirit of revolution that always returns when injustice is at hand - only to eventually be rejoined by the whole group in the united chorus.

Hope, Peled goes on, is practically built into the structure of "Tch'elema". "The Ethiopian Antchi Hoye scale was perfect," he continues as he describes his cathartic writing process. "It's got an ominous tone; however, it's usually used for happy occasions."

"Tch'elema", then, for its dour name, is a brilliant paradox. "I wanted the piece to create a chaotic mood but also be a cleansing cry."

Hypnotic to the point of being ecstatic, it's easy to find the joy in Anbessa Orcestra's new track, the first of many in the near future. And, though Peled may have global woes on the brain - don't we all, at this point? - he remains optimistic on "Tch'elema". "Even though things are hard," he says, "We gotta keep moving and aim for a better day." It's simple, sage advice, both in word and when set to the fiery, funky music that Anbessa Orchestra makes best.

Single Tch'elema will be available for purchase online on 21 October.


20 Nov - The State House (New Haven, CT)

22 Nov - New City Brewery (Easthampton, MA)

23 Nov - Barbes (Brooklyn, NY)

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