Akale Wube (L'Arome Productions)
Ethiopian grooves Akale Wube transforms an Ethiopian sound into a retro-futuristic soundtrack which makes you dance from head to toe. It is an improbable story: one that reunites a group of young Parisians with the Swingin' Addis sounds of the seventies. In October 2008, five musicians got together on a wild project: to delve into the repertoire of the Ethiopian golden age, as defined by the producer Francis Falceto, to whom we owe the series of reissues 'Ethiopiques.' 'The idea was to transcribe songs from this period and rearrange them to the sound of our times. First off, it eliminated the need to write songs that risked falling into Ethio-jazz cliches. The aim was not to bring about some artistic revolution through our work but simply to give and take pleasure by performing this music!'
Through this retro-futuristic alchemy, the Akale Wube quintet was born: a curious name borrowed from a song by the great saxophonist Getatchew Mekurya, a bit of an old-fashioned expression which can by translated as 'my beautiful' in Amharic, a poetic metaphor which also means 'beauty of the soul.' Body and soul! The Great Black Music currency can be found here, reinvented at every second. Take for example Mulatu Astatqe's classics, the master of Ethio-jazz, songs like 'Metche New' by Teshome Sissay, or even some other lesser known rarities...Akale Wube delivers an original vision which transfigures the original version. 'One of the challenges was to play the songs without a singer.' The vocal parts are thus interpreted by the flute, starting with the bansuri on Ayalqem Tedengo: the opening tune by Alemayehu Eshete, the godfather of local funk, which uncorks the album. The group takes on another challenge by glorifying a song from the Eritrean repertoire called 'Bazay'. It couples swing and straight eighths to develop a dance-floor tune full of breaks and counterpoint.
Finally, the ultimate challenge was to integrate four of their original compositions into this journey, guided by the good sense of groove. 'Nebyat', a juicy ballad stained with psychedelic jazz, evolves through a post-rock direction, while 'Jawa Jawa' (meaning 'to sway, to swing' in Amharic) is a prototype of funk soul jazz breakbeats, agile percussion and subtle keyboards, brass playing in unison and a guitar riff in the tradition of The Meters. 'Kokob' is based on a slightly broken up reggae riddim. This track contains a sample of Haile Selassie's historic speech at the United Nations in 1963, the same one used by Bob Marley in his emblematic 'War'. Last but not least, the minimalistic 'Ragale': some light melodica touches, brushes barely grazed by the drummer and the deep blow of the tenor sax close this chapter by opening some new horizons.