Ethiopian musical trade winds arrive in the Midlands

The Krar Collective

The music of Ethiopia is on a surge and blowing this way, with two strong gigs in the Midlands in the next few weeks.

First up is a Making Tracks performance at the mac this Thursday featuring Krar Collective. This three-piece caused quite a stir at the Womex world music trade fair with their mix of urgent drumming, rolling Afro-arabic melodies and enticing dancing. The band is led by Temesgen Zeleke, who plays the six-stringed Ethiopian lyre that gives the band its name. With the soaring voice and gyrating hips of Genet Assefa fronting the band, this will be a gig where nobody remains seated for very long.

They have been called the White Stripes of Ethiopia, and even the briefest listen to their album Ethiopia Super Krar makes clear the reason why. Zeleke’s krar can be bluesy and metallic in its tone, and the groove is hard and relentless. He is also not averse to playing it lying on his back.

Krar Collective are at the mac on Thursday at 8pm. More details and booking here.

And this gig is in some ways a preparation for the main act…

Krar Collective leader Temesgen Zeleke was a star pupil of legendary Ethiopian musician Mulatu Astatke, and Astatke himself brings his band to Warwick Arts Centre on 22 November.

Mulatu Astatke

He plays keyboards, vibes and percussion, composes and arranges, and is acknowledged as the founder of Ethio-jazz, a blend of jazz with funk, Latin and African influences. He once worked with Duke Ellington, but his music wasn’t that well-known in the West until a fabulous compilation of a whole library of recordings from Ethiopia, The Very Best Of Ethiopiques, was released in 2007. It also helped that Jim Jarmusch used music from Astatke in his film Broken Flowers.

Mulatu Astatke is at Warwick Arts Centre on 22 November from 7.30pm. More information and booking here.

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