Ethiopian Singer Minyeshu Shows Range and Thought on Colorful 'Daa Dee'

Photo: Mark Engelen / Courtesy of ARC Music

There's never been any doubt that Minyeshu has skill, but her range is what Daa Dee shows better than any of her previous works.

Daa Dee

ARC Music

26 October 2018

As a general rule, having the willingness to make changes is an admirable and useful quality when the opposite is obstinate, self-imposed stagnation. For an artist, such flexibility can be the difference between creative vitality and being tucked neatly away in a single, stale genre for a whole career.

On new release Daa Dee, singer Minyeshu Kifle Tedla - known as Minyeshu in her creative life - is ready to make changes. She takes her music back to basics - "daa dee" essentially refers to "baby steps" - and moves into bold new spaces, away from some of the less substantial pop sensibilities of previous works and toward a more sophisticated set of sounds. Minyeshu sings about love, peace, war, motherhood, and Lucy, the landmark Australopithecus afarensis skeleton, among other topics that she feels strongly about. On the whole, there is much here that is easily among the best music she has made thus far in her career.

The album gets off to an uncertain start. "Aynocheh" never fully gels, and it's hard to say exactly why. It might be the synths, a little too obvious for comfort, or it might be how closely the instrumentation follows her voice at times - though there are certainly bright spots, too. Any missteps here are easily forgiven as the album goes on; Minyeshu approaches most other tracks with a deep regard for fine composition, nothing overwrought. She pulls in Afropop vibes, reggae beats, Ethiojazz complexities, and stripped-down folk tunes, using all her tools in moderation and with measured intent.

In theory, it sounds like a lot. In practice, this is Minyeshu expressing herself and her passions without bowing to genre boundaries, and though she may claim to be taking baby steps, she tends to land solidly no matter how many different directions she takes. While the swing from soothing to spinning on "Hailo Gaja" is a little disorienting, it leads into the sharp violins of melancholy "Yetal", a heartfelt piece from start to finish. "Yeselam Ayer" is an upbeat call for peace marked by high notes on the single wailing string of the masenqo. "Yikerta" has a rootsy twang and truly soulful sax to close off the piece; title track "Daa Dee" is all piano, voice, and love.

"Azawntua" and "Wolaytana" are fast, brassy, and bright, with hints of Afrobeat in the guitar ostinati. Midtempo "Enchet Lekema" moves forward with sustainable momentum, while barebones percussion leads into weightless exaltation on "Temesgen". Minyeshu fills "Geletuma", an ode to her home of Dire Dawa, with urban sound: synths, trumpets, and a walking bassline. Sorrow and introspection color "Yachi Elet", leading into a final reggae-tinged tune: "Anteneh", a song of hope realized with hefty groove.

All of this just scratches the surface of what Minyeshu does on Daa Dee. There's never been any doubt that Minyeshu has skill, but her range is what Daa Dee shows better than any of her previous works. She shows careful thought with each choice, and whether or not each one works perfectly, the final product is original, wholly new and wholly Minyeshu.





Laura Nyro's "Save the Country" Calls Out from the Past

Laura Nyro, a witchy, queer, ethnic Russian Jew, died young, but her non-conformist anthem, "Save the Country", carries forth to these troubled times.


Journalist Jonathan Cott's Interviews, Captured

With his wide-ranging interviews, Jonathan Cott explores "the indispensable and transformative powers of the imagination."

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Coronavirus and the Culture Wars

Infodemics, conspiracies -- fault lines beneath the Fractured States of America tremble in this time of global pandemic, amplify splinters, fractures, and fissures past and present.


'Switched-On Seeker' Is an Imaginative Electronic Reimagining of Mikal Cronin's Latest LP

Listeners who prefer dense rock/pop timbres will no doubt prefer Mikal Cronin's 'Seeker'. However, 'Switched-On Seeker' will surely delight fans of smaller-scale electronic filters.


IYEARA Heighten the Tension on Remix of Mark Lanegan's "Playing Nero" (premiere)

Britsh trio IYEARA offer the first taste of a forthcoming reworking of Mark Lanegan's Somebody's Knocking with a remix of "Playing Nero".


Pottery Take Us Deep Into the Funky and Absurd on 'Welcome to Bobby's Motel'

With Welcome to Bobby's Motel, Pottery have crafted songs to cleanse your musical pallet and keep you firmly on the tips of your toes.


Counterbalance 23: Bob Dylan - 'Blood on the Tracks'

Bob Dylan makes his third appearance on the Acclaimed Music list with his 1975 album, Blood on the Tracks. Counterbalance’s Eric Klinger and Jason Mendelsohn are planting their stories in the press.


Luke Cissell Creates Dreamy, Electronic Soundscapes on the Eclectic 'Nightside'

Nightside, the new album from composer and multi-instrumentalist Luke Cissell, is largely synthetic and electronic but contains a great deal of warmth and melody.


Bibio Discusses 'Sleep on the Wing' and Why His Dreams Are of the Countryside

"I think even if I lived in the heart of Tokyo, I'd still make music that reminds people of the countryside because it's where my dreams often take me," says Bibio (aka Stephen Wilkinson) of his music and his new rustic EP.

Reading Pandemics

Pandemic, Hope, Defiance, and Protest in 'Romeo and Juliet'

Shakespeare's well known romantic tale Romeo and Juliet, written during a pandemic, has a surprisingly hopeful message about defiance and protest.


A Family Visit Turns to Guerrilla Warfare in 'The Truth'

Catherine Deneuve plays an imperious but fading actress who can't stop being cruel to the people around her in Hirokazu Koreeda's secrets- and betrayal-packed melodrama, The Truth.


The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.