Abyssinian Roots: Feb 11, 2012

Assembled by the Batuki Music Society, this unique ensemble, featuring some of the hottest expatriates coming out of Addis Ababa’s nightclub and culture scene, paints a vibrant portrait of Ethiopian musical forms: the monochord music of the ‘Azmaris;’ the pentatonic and varied regional sounds; and the hybrid Ethio-jazz.

The ensemble at the ‘Ethiopia: A Musical Perspective’ concert: Glenn Gould Studio, Toronto on February 11, 2012
(front: L to R) Fantahun Shewankochew: krar, vocals; Abebe Fikade: masenko, vocals; Eyerusalem Dubale: vocals; Martha Ashagari: vocals; Saba Alemayehu: dance
(back: L to R) Dawit Tesfamariam: keyboards; John MacLean: tenor saxophone; Girma Woldemichael: tenor saxophone; Bereket Gebremedn: keyboards; Henok Abebe: vocals; Daniel Barnes: drums; Yared Zeleke: bass
not pictured – Andargachew Abebe: guitar (‘Andy’ in Ethiopia at time of this concert, now replaces Bereket, who had ably substituted as second keyboardist.)

Ethiopia has the enviable position in the African continent of being the only country that was never colonized by European powers. It also had the longest continuous monarchy until the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie in the ‘70s by the military.  Ethiopia has a glorious past with a great civilization, one of a few countries with a written language (the Ge’ez script) and a developed system of governance.  The resilience and bravery of the Ethiopian people in resisting Italian campaigns to colonize it are often seen by many Africans as a catalyst that sowed the seeds of independence for their countries.  The idea of a United Africa started in Ethiopia; hence, Africa’s first parliament was established in Addis Ababa, the capital city.

Toronto has one of the largest Ethiopian populations in Canada;  there is already a large pool of talent within this community.Having interacted on many occasions with its leaders and artists. Batuki Music Society’s Artistic Director proposed the idea to put together a musical collective to showcase the various traditions and cultures of Ethiopia.

There will be an array of traditional and modern instruments displaying on a single stage for the first time in Canada the wealth of talent and energy from “the Horn of Plenty”.. Batuki Music Society is offering fresh eyes at defining what Ethiopian music is.

listen to songs and an interview with series curator Francis Falceto | NPR 2006:

Jazz from the Horn of Africa: ‘Ethiopiques’

Batuki Music Society is an incorporated non-profit community-based organization that promotes African music and art through performances at music venues throughout the year and culminating into a weekend festival at the end of the programming season. The organization actively seeks out local artists and works with them by helping find performance venues, advice on career development, music recording, touring and management.

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