Radiodiffusion Internasionaal Annexe


Menelik Wossenachew
February 12, 2011, 9:56 pm
Filed under: Ethiopia

Tezeta

Five years ago, I decided to purchase the domain radiodiffusion.net after my old site got mentioned on Boing Boing and crashed from the traffic. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. A good friend of mine even tried to talk me out of it. But here we are, and I still am pretty clueless as to what I am doing or where I am going with this unruly beast of a site. What started out as a little web page for a handful of friends, now gets about 400 to 500 hits a day.

The original intent, or should I say the inspiration, was just that there were practically no web sites out there where you could hear this stuff. And it seemed like the few that did exist, only used RealPlayer – and who wants that headache? I started this because there were, and still are, hundreds of records that I just wanted to hear. I didn’t need to hear the whole thing – just enough to get an idea of whether or not it was worth tracking down.

At the time, there were only a handful of compilations and reissues available. There was nothing from Iran. Since then, there’s a whole label dedicated to music from that time period as well as a few other great compilations. Angola, Burma, Iraq, Pakistan and Vietnam were all completely off the radar. Now those countries’ – as well as many others’ – musical histories have been unearthed and are now readily available to be heard. This – plus the many other amazing music sites that have sprouted up since – has turned many fellow music fiends into collectors, seeking out these records.

But what else is there to say that has not already been written about Ethiopian Jazz or Khmer Pop? And more eloquently than my own ramblings, I might add. Both of those countries have compilation series whose volumes number up into the twenty some odds now. Or how about Thailand? How may compilations have been issued? I can name at least fourteen just off the top of my head. Add in the mind boggling Monrakplengthai, and you pretty much have what seems like the entire recorded history of that country. And Turkey? Nigeria? Indonesia? Benin? It goes on and on.

Unfortunately, one thing has become clear – Radiodiffusion Internasionaal can not continue on as it has. I’ve painted myself into a corner, metaphorically. I mean, there are plenty of records – and cassettes – that are left to post. But the ones that I really want to write about, I have not been able to get my hands on. So, I have been tying to figure out how to take this site in a slightly different direction. I just have not figured out what that direction is… Yet.

In the meantime, got any suggestions?

For information on Menelik Wossenachew, please see the previous posting HERE.

Catalog Number AE 350 on Amha Records of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Released 1972.



Ayaléw Mèsfin & Black Lion Band
June 20, 2010, 5:30 am
Filed under: Ethiopia

Neye Temelesh Belwat

Probably the most fuzzed out track on all of Buda Musique‘s sprawling twenty some odd volumes of their Éthiopiques series, has to be Ayaléw Mèsfin & Black Lion Band’s song Hasabé. That song can be found on the eighth volume, but Mèsfin and his band have been featured on the 13th and 24th volumes, as well as a Rough Guide compilation called The Rough Guide to African Blues.

Ayaléw Mèsfin got his start playing with a band called Fetan Band – or Speed Band – at the Patrice Lumumba Bar in Addis Ababa. According to his biography, he has released “about twenty singles and a dozen tapes released since 1974″. He also opened the Ayaléw Music Shop in Addis Ababa, that he still owns even after moving to America. In January 2008, he performed with the Dutch band The Ex at the Hager Fekir Theatre in Addis Ababa.

Thanks to Peter Roth.

Catalog number KF 16 on Kaifa Records of Ethiopia, released 1975.



Tilahun Gessesse with Body Guard Band
January 31, 2010, 8:59 am
Filed under: Ethiopia

Ine Alamaregnim

Tilahoun Gessesse was one of the most popular singers of Ethiopia‘s “Golden Age” in the 1960s – nicknamed “The Voice”. There are four posts (so far) that cover the legendary musician over at the mighty Likembe blog.

Here is Tilahun’s biography from Ethio LA3:

Artist Dr. Tilahun Gessesse was born to Woizero Gete Gurmu and Ato Gessesse Wolde Kidan on Sunday, September 27, 1942, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. When he was fourteen years old, he was taken by his grandfather to Woliso. While he was in Woliso, he began attending Ras Gobena Elementary School. As time went by, his interest in music became so clear that his grandfather urged him to concentrate in his school studies instead of music. On the other hand, the Ras Gobena School Principal Mr. Shedad (Sudanian) who realized Tilahun’s interest in music urged him to go to Sudan to pursue his interest in music. Even though young Tilahun did not go to Sudan to pursue his music career, he took Mr. Shedad’s advice very seriously. When artists form Hager Feker Theater, Woizro Negatwa Kelkai, Ato Eyoel Yohanes and others came to Ras Gobena Elementary School to perform, Tilahun grabbed this opportunity to discuss his interest in music with Ato Eyoel. Young Tialhun was told to go to Addis Ababa if he wanted to pursue his career in music. [...]

Once Tilahun arrived in Addis Ababa, he immediately began to show his talent. He was first hired by the Hager Feker Association, which is nowadays known as Hager Feker Theater.

After a few years at the Hager Feker Theater, Tilahun joined the Imperial Body Guard Band where he became a leading star singer. He then moved to the National Theater where he became famous and successful with his wonderful voice. Tilahun was so famous that he appeared three times in front of His Majesty, Emperor Haile Selassie I. During his visit with his Majesty, His Majesty advised Tilahun not to abuse his gifted talent. Tilahun kept his majesty’s advice and has become the king of Ethiopian music and his name has also become a household name among all Ethiopians.

Tilahoun Gessesse passed away on April 19th of 2009. A state funeral was held on three days later in Addis Ababa.

Catalog number PH 7-224 on Philips Records Ethiopia. No release date listed.



Alemayehu Borobor & The Walias
July 19, 2009, 4:25 am
Filed under: Ethiopia

Tez Aleng Hagere

I would guess that for many folks, their first introduction to the hypnotic sounds of Ethiopian Jazz would have been the Jim Jarmusch film Broken Flowers. The soundtrack was heavy with instrumental songs of Mulatu Astatqé. I will admit, at the time I was only starting to delve into the music of Ethiopia when a friend lent me a copy of Ethiopiques Volume 4: Ethio Jazz & Musique Instrumentale 1969-1974. But soon after, I started checking out as many of the series as the Washington State Library system could lend me. Eventually, I came across Ethiopiques Volume 13: Ethiopian Groove and was blown away by The Walias Band’s instrumental Muziqawi Silt.

From the Ethiopiques website:

The Walias Band • Active from the early 1970s, until the beginning of the 1990s, The Walias Band was a seminal band on the Ethiopian scene. Made up of musicians from the Venus Band (so called because they were employed by the Venus Club) and later Shèbèlé’s Band (from the Wabi Shèbèlé Hôtel) it was one of the first independent groups able to impose their own name upon the venues that hired them. Its longest lasting members were the saxophonist Mogès Habté, bass-player Mèlakè Gèbrè, drummer Tèmarè Harègou and trumpeter Yohannes Tèkola. Girma Bèyènè was also an active member of Walias.

In 1981 The Walias Band was the first modern Ethiopian group to tour the community of Ethiopian exiles in the USA. Deciding not to return to Mengistu’s dreadful ‘paradise’, Girma Bèyènè, Mogès Habté, Mèlakè Gèbrè and Haylu Mergia chose to remain in exile on the East Coast. There, Mogès released a CD accompanied by a booklet rich in biographical and historical information. In it he credits his major influences: King Curtis, Junior Walker and Maceo Parker. For a further ten years Yohannes Tèkola and Tèmarè Harègou continued to play, making the Walias Band, together with the Roha Band and Ethio Star, one of the best modern groups during the sombre ‘Derg’ period.

As for Alemayehu Borobor, I know that he recorded as a backing vocalist with The Ibex Band, and is on the song Belaya Belaya which appears on Ethiopiques Volume 19: Altèmeyé with Mahmoud Ahmed. He also preformed along with Yohannes Afewerq, Mammo Demissie and Kebbede Welde-Maryam on the track Goraw on the Orchestra Ethiopia compilation, Ethiopiques Volume 23.

Catalog number fx7643 / fx7644 on Kaifa Records of Ethiopia. No release date listed.



Tezera Haile Michael
January 25, 2009, 8:20 am
Filed under: Ethiopia

Ayitchat Neber

Obsession. That is the word that describes Francis Falceto. He is the man behind the twenty three volume, and counting, Éthiopiques series on Buda Music. In April of 1984, a friend of his lent him a copy of a Mahmoud Ahmed album. A month later, he went to Ethiopia. Although it would be over a decade before the Éthiopiques discs started showing up in record shops around the world, he was responsible for the first release abroad of modern Ethiopian music with the reissue of Mahmoud Ahmed’s 1975 album “Erè Mèla Mèla” for Crammed Discs in 1986. But it is surprising, that in the span of the twenty three discs and two DVDs that have been released since 1997, that there is still plenty of territory that has yet to be covered.

The music of Ethiopia is the result of a very specific series of events. First, there is Emperor Haile Sellassie’s visit to Jerusalem in 1923. While he was there, two significant things happened: He heard brass band music for the first time and he met the “Arba Lijoch”. The “Arba Lijoch” were a group of forty Armenian orphans (Amharic “forty children”) living at the Armenian monastery in Jerusalem, who had escaped from the Armenian genocide in Turkey. They impressed Haile Selassie so much that he obtained permission from the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem to adopt them and bring them to Ethiopia, where he then arranged for them to receive musical instruction. They arrived in Addis Ababa on September 6, 1924, and along with their bandleader Kevork Nalbandian to become the first official orchestra of the nation. Nalbandian’s nephew, Nerses Nalbandian – who was a composer, arranger, chorus leader, and music teacher, would go on to become a core person to develop modern music in that country. Throw in Peace Corps volunteers bringing records from America, as well as the American military radio at Kagnew Station in neighboring Eritrea broadcasting the latest R & B, Soul, Rock and Pop hits, and you have a potent combination of influences that produced one of the most unique musical movements found in any country at that, or really any, point in time.

But all of that ended in 1975, when the Derg ousted Emperor Haile Selassie from power. The Derg, which means “committee” or “council” in Ge’ez, is the short name of the Coordinating Committee of the Armed Forces, Police, and Territorial Army and was a communist military junta led by a committee of military officers. Under their rule, the nightlife of Addis Ababa faded away and the record labels disappeared. The musicians were unable to leave the country, since emigration became almost impossible and they needed an exit visa to leave the country. The music may never have left Ethiopia, if it were not for the few vinyl records that managed to find their way out into the rest of the world.

The only information that I have been able to find about Tezera Haile Michael, is that he was primarily a songwriter and arranger, who’s songs that were recorded by Bezunesh Bekele, Mahmoud Ahmed (on all of his self released singles) and Tilahoun Gessesse. I have also seen him credited as a back up singer for some of the early recordings of the Imperial Body Guard Band, who are the backing band on this record. As far as I know, this was his only recording where he was the featured vocalist.

Catalog number PH 7-161 on Philips Records Ethiopia. No release date listed.



Seyoum Gèbrèyès
June 24, 2008, 8:52 pm
Filed under: Ethiopia

Hametegnaw

Seyoum Gèbrèyès was from Ethiopia.

If one were to pick a specific point that marked the birth of the distinctive Ethiopian soul music, one could do worse than choose the late Emperor Haile Sellassie’s visit to Jerusalem in 1923. During his stay he heard European brass instruments, which made such an impression on him that he hired a group of Armenian players to become official musicians of the empire. One of these players, Kevork Nalbandian, even composed the current Ethiopian National Anthem in 1926 (Although, according to Wikipedia, it was Solomon Lulu Mitiku).

Thus a distinctly European flavour of brass band music was brought into a country whose traditional music bore heavy influence from Muslim forms, and its own modal pentatonic scale. Additionally, because it was actually impossible to buy saxophones, drums or other musical instruments under the Selassie regime, only the marching bands had access to them, giving the subsequently played music a foreboding, militaristic ambience.

Meanwhile in Europe, a new generation became that baby boomers started the cultural revolution of rock ’n’ roll, R ’n’ B and pop music in the 1960s. The same generation in Ethiopia, in their 20s during the early 60s, wanted to change the country and get connected with the world. But where Ethiopia was different was that they had about 6,000 Peace Corps from America. President Kennedy invented this civil service for youngsters in order to work in third world countries, so these people brought with them a lot of American flavours: long hair, bell-bottom trousers and plenty of vinyl records.

Thanks to the newly acquired influences from the West, the sound emanating from the clubs Addis Ababa was a heady stew of deep, hypnotic rhythms, distinctly Western guitar licks and soulful eastern melodies and vocals. The sound bore the unmistakable badge of American records (Stax and Motown artists in particular) plus something distinctly African and new.

Soon labels such as Amha Records and Kaifa Records sprung up around the city to capture the sounds produced by the more popular singers and performers. Mahmoud Ahmed, Mulatu Astatke, Tlahoun Gèssèssè, as well as others all brought their soulful sound to the clubs and cut records.

Not much is known about Seyoum Gèbrèyès, except that he played saxophone. Some of his songs have appeared on volumes 1 and 13 of the Éthiopiques series with the Wallias Band. He also apparently played with Lèmma Dèmissèw who was featured on Éthiopiques volume 8 and was an arranger for Alèmayehu Eshété.

The Alem-Girma band, which was the backing band on this single, was formed by Alèmayehu Eshété and Girma Bèyènè in 1972. Both supposedly shared the taste of music and clothing fashion that was coming from the United States (James Brown, Elvis Presley, and Wilson Pickett to name a few). The band retained some of the members from the All Star Band and only lasted until 1974, after Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam’s military coup against Selassie. Under Mariam’s Dekrg, or ruling council, Addis Ababa’s nightlife died off.

Catalog Number AE 580 on Amha Records of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. No release date listed.



Alèmayehu Eshété
June 24, 2008, 8:12 pm
Filed under: Ethiopia

Ittu Gela

Alèmayehu Eshété was from Ethiopia.

If one were to pick a specific point that marked the birth of the distinctive Ethiopian soul music, one could do worse than choose the late Emperor Haile Sellassie’s visit to Jerusalem in 1923. During his stay he heard European brass instruments, which made such an impression on him that he hired a group of Armenian players to become official musicians of the empire. One of these players, Kevork Nalbandian, even composed the current Ethiopian National Anthem in 1926 (Although, according to Wikipedia, it was Solomon Lulu Mitiku).

Thus a distinctly European flavour of brass band music was brought into a country whose traditional music bore heavy influence from Muslim forms, and its own modal pentatonic scale. Additionally, because it was actually impossible to buy saxophones, drums or other musical instruments under the Selassie regime, only the marching bands had access to them, giving the subsequently played music a foreboding, militaristic ambience.

Meanwhile in Europe, a new generation became that baby boomers started the cultural revolution of rock ’n’ roll, R ’n’ B and pop music in the 1960s. The same generation in Ethiopia, in their 20s during the early 60s, wanted to change the country and get connected with the world. But where Ethiopia was different was that they had about 6,000 Peace Corps from America. President Kennedy invented this civil service for youngsters in order to work in third world countries, so these people brought with them a lot of American flavours: long hair, bell-bottom trousers and plenty of vinyl records.

Thanks to the newly acquired influences from the West, the sound emanating from the clubs Addis Ababa was a heady stew of deep, hypnotic rhythms, distinctly Western guitar licks and soulful eastern melodies and vocals. The sound bore the unmistakable badge of American records (Stax and Motown artists in particular) plus something distinctly African and new.

Soon labels such as Amha Records and Kaifa Records sprung up around the city to capture the sounds produced by the more popular singers and performers. Mahmoud Ahmed, Mulatu Astatke, Tlahoun Gèssèssè, as well as others all brought their soulful sound to the clubs and cut records.

The Alem-Girma band was formed by Alèmayehu Eshété and Girma Beyene in 1972. Both supposedly shared the taste of music and clothing fashion that was coming from the United States (James Brown, Elvis Presley, and Wilson Pickett to name a few). The band retained some of the members from the All Star Band. From left to right: Tekle “Huket” Adhanom (guitar), Tamerat “Lotti” Kebede (drums), Alemayehu Eshete (vocals), Girma Beyene (piano and arranger) & Tekle Gebremariam (sax). The band lasted until 1974, after Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam’s military coup against Selassie. Under Mariam’s Derg, or ruling council, Addis Ababa’s nightlife died off.

Volume 9 of the Ethiopiques series is devoted to Alèmayehu Eshété’s earlier music, while Volume 22 of that series covers his career between 1972 and 1974. Some of his songs have also appeared on volumes 3, 8, 10, and 13. Also, L’Arôme, in association with Buda Musique, has recently released a vinyl only collection of some of his best tracks, entitled Ethiopian Urban Modern Music Vol 2. He still active in Ethiopia performing and recording to this day.

Catalog Number PH 172 on Philips, “manufactured by E. A. Records for Phonogram in E. Africa”. Publishing date listed as 1973.



Menelik Wossenachew
June 24, 2008, 7:28 pm
Filed under: Ethiopia

Mekaberene Liyew

Menelik Wossenachew was from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

There is not a lot of information available on him. He did record at least one other single for Ahma Records, with The All Star Band that was written and arranged by Mulatu Astatke.

Menelik Wossenachew was a member of the second incarnation of the Ras Band, which was lead by Girma Beyene. The Ras Band took their name, like The Ghion and The Shebelle Bands of the time, after the hotels that employed them.

The majority members of the first Ras Band came from the Haile Selassie I Theatre Orchestra,

who was then led by the famous Armenian Nerses Nalbandian. These included Girma Beyene, Wodajeneh Felfelu, Assefa Bayisa, Tefera Mekonnen, Tilahun Yimer and Bahru Tedla. Up to 1955 the last three were also in the Imperial Bodyguard Orchestra Jazz Symphony under Austrian Franz Zelwecher. The first Ras Band stayed in this form until 1965 when the entire band, with the exception of Girma Beyene, went on to form the Ghion Band at the Ghion Hotel.

Girma Beyene, was a lyricist, a music writer, an arranger, a vocalist, a pianist and bandleader. To most, if any name comes to mind with the word arranger, it is probably that of Mulatu Astatke. Yet, according to Ethiopiques Series producer Francis Falceto, in the heyday of vinyl records, Girma Beyene is credited to having arranged close to 65 titles, compared to Mulatu’s 40. Girma left a handful of recordings as a vocalist, but it was as an arranger and pianist that he is most remembered.

After leaving the second incarnation of The Ras Band, Girma Beyene was in The Girmas Band with Girma Zemariam for a brief period before forming The All Star Band in 1970. It members were for the most part taken from two popular bands, the second Ras Band, and The Soul Ekos Band with Menelik Wossenachew on vocals. But that only lasted for two years, before Girma Beyene left to form the Alem-Girma with Alèmayehu Eshété in 1972.

Catalog number AE 810, Amha Records of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. No release date given.



Damtew Ayele / Samuel Belay
June 23, 2008, 12:34 pm
Filed under: Ethiopia

Damtew Ayele Wofe Yillala

Samuel Belay • Keresh Endewaza

If one were to pick a specific point that marked the birth of the distinctive Ethiopian soul music, one could do worse than choose the late Emperor Haile Sellassie’s visit to Jerusalem in 1923. During his stay he heard European brass instruments, which made such an impression on him that he hired a group of Armenian players to become official musicians of the empire. One of these players, Kevork Nalbandian, even composed the current Ethiopian National Anthem in 1926 (Although, according to Wikipedia, it was Solomon Lulu Mitiku).

Thus a distinctly European flavour of brass band music was brought into a country whose traditional music bore heavy influence from Muslim forms, and its own modal pentatonic scale. Additionally, because it was actually impossible to buy saxophones, drums or other musical instruments under the Selassie regime, only the marching bands had access to them, giving the subsequently played music a foreboding, militaristic ambience.

Meanwhile in Europe, a new generation became that baby boomers started the cultural revolution of rock ’n’ roll, R ’n’ B and pop music in the 1960s. The same generation in Ethiopia, in their 20s during the early 60s, wanted to change the country and get connected with the world. But where Ethiopia was different was that they had about 6,000 Peace Corps from America. President Kennedy invented this civil service for youngsters in order to work in third world countries, so these people brought with them a lot of American flavours: long hair, bell-bottom trousers and plenty of vinyl records.

Thanks to the newly acquired influences from the West, the sound emanating from the clubs Addis Ababa was a heady stew of deep, hypnotic rhythms, distinctly Western guitar licks and soulful eastern melodies and vocals. The sound bore the unmistakable badge of American records (Stax and Motown artists in particular) plus something distinctly African and new.

Soon labels such as Amha Records and Kaifa Records sprung up around the city to capture the sounds produced by the more popular singers and performers. Mahmoud Ahmed, Mulatu Astatke, Alèmayehu Eshété, Tlahoun Gèssèssè, as well as others all brought their soulful sound to the clubs and cut records. But they disappeared from public view after Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam’s military coup against Selassie in 1974. Under Mariam’s Derg, or ruling council, Addis Ababa’s nightlife died off.

Amha Ashèté, creator of the Amha Records label, was the driving force behind this brief creative burst and one of the main founders of the modernist movement which swept the Ethiopian scene during the end of the rule of the Emperor Haile Sellassie. The company released 103 singles and 12 albums between 1969 and 1975.

The song “Qeresh Endewaza” (which apparently translates to “You Are No More “) by Samuel Belay was featured on Budda Musique’s “Ethiopiques, Vol. 8: Swinging Addis”.. I am not sure if this is the same recording. As for Damtew Ayele, the only information I have been able to find says that he was “a traditional Ethiopian male singer. Ethiopian traditional songs include musical instruments such as the kebro, a percussion instrument, kirar and masinqo, both string instruments.” Which you can tell from this recording is incorrect.

Catalog number AE 710 on Amha Records of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. All other information in Amharic, no release date given. This record (as well as many of Amha Records releases) was pressed on swirly green and purple vinyl, which unfortuanately does not sound all that great.



Mahmoud Ahmed
June 19, 2008, 2:13 pm
Filed under: Ethiopia

?

With the exception of Mulatu Astatke, Mahmoud Ahmed is probably the most well know musician from Ethiopia. He has been featured on three of the Éthiopiques volumes on Buda Musique (numbers 6, 7 and 19) and has recently released a live album. He still records and tours to this day, mainly in Europe.

Here is an excerpt of his biography from the Afropop Worldwide website:

Mahmoud Ahmed was born in the Mercato district of Addis Ababa, but he hails from the Gouragué people, who live south-west of the Ethiopian capital. The Gouragué are known for their cuisine, their diligence in business, and their exuberant traditional dances. Young Ahmed showed little aptitude for schooling. Only music interested him, and instead of studying, he would spend his hours listening to the Tèquali Radio, to bands like the Imperial Body Guard Band, and singers like Tilahoun Gèssèssè.

As a result, Ahmed soon wound up shining shoes alongside other poor, going-nowhere boys in the capital. In 1962, Ahmed took a position helping out at the Arizona Club, one of the semi-legal night spots that were popping up in Addis in those days. This was the time when Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie, in power since 1930, began to sense that his country was slipping away from him. In an effort to appease roiling popular sentiment against him. Sellassie would ultimately relax restrictions on music production, formerly the sole province of the state cultural organization and recording company, Agher Feqer Mahber (“The Love of Country Association”). This paved the ways for Ahmed’s early releases on Amha Records. But first, Sellassie allowed state bands, like the Police and Army Orchestras, to create side branches that played popular music. Sellassie had had a hand in creating these brass orchestras when back in 1924 he invited 40 Armenian musicians refugees to come to Ethiopia as state musicians.

Despite their new liberties, these institutional bands were technically barred from performing except when on official government contracts. But many defied this law. As it happened, the Arizona Club where Ahmed worked became a favorite moonlighting hangout for the Imperial Body Guard Band. One night when the band’s lead singer failed to show, Ahmed persuaded the band to let him sing a few current hits. Arrangers Sahlé Dègado and Girma Hadgu took up his cause and gradually introduced him into the band’s official lineup, where he remained until 1974. Ahmed recorded his first 45-RPM single in 1971.

Here is a discography that lists just about all of Mahmoud Ahmed’s releases, including early singles and cassette only releases…But it does not look like this record is listed.

Catalog number is C-0284 on Hitachi of Japan, distributed in Ethiopia by E. A. K. of Addis Ababa. This record originally came with a pamphlet, all in Amharic, which you can view here.




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