Words by Chris Menist
What a delight this new collaboration between Ethiopian saxophone legend Getatchew Mekuria and The Ex proves to be. Showcasing something natural, effortless and organic, the album highlights a genuine meeting of minds, gelled together from touring and ideas shared over the past few years. Shot through with a punkish sensibility, these interactions produce something congruent and true that easily transcends the sum of its parts. On the surface, these are well-traversed covers of Ethiopian folk tunes, but the authority of the execution and the seeming ease and familiarity with the material makes this stand head and shoulder above other similar homages.
The opener, ‘Ambassel’, is a bold rendition underpinned by a menacing guitar line and topped off with squalling horns as pentatonic melodies saw up and down. ‘Bertukane’ is reminiscent of the harsh hymns and dirges recorded by Albert Ayler during his too short career, whereas there is a terrific openness and pace to the jazzy, sparse ‘Ene Eskemot Derese’. The always mesmerising ‘Aha Gedawo’ suddenly seems tailor-made to accommodate the hypnotic guitar work of Andy Moor, and Getatchew’s urgent solo playing. Each track manages to be unique, whilst being consistent with the whole. On the strength of the bonus disc, the recording additionally manages to echo the power of the group in the flesh. A real achievement – one of the most significant Ethiopian recordings of recent times.
TRACK TO TRY: Aha Gedawo