Filed under: Ethiopia
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.