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Mulatu of Ethiopia

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Album Review

Mulatu Astatqé (also sometimes spelled Mulatu Astatke, as he is on the liner notes to this release) might be most known to international audiences through his tracks on the excellent Ethiopiques CD anthology series of Ethiopian music. Long before those tracks were compiled for that series, however, he had an American release with this 1972 instrumental album, on which he's billed as "Mulatu of Ethiopia." Like much of the best of the circa-early-'70s contemporary Ethiopian music on Ethiopiques, it's a fine, at times captivating blend of late-'60s American soul and jazz with Ethiopian music, resulting in something not quite comparable to anything else. It is undeniably funky, with wah-wah guitar and organ aplenty. There's plenty of contemporary jazz in the arrangements, too, the sax runs sometimes showing the influence of the likes of John Coltrane. Yet there's a melancholy minor cast to the melodies that marks this off as something quite different, and the rhythms likewise have irregularities that are more African than American. The only major strike against the LP is its short running time, with the seven tracks adding up to a mere 26-and-a-half minutes or so.

Biography

Born: 1943 in Ethiopia

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Ethiopian musician (piano, organ, vibraphone, and percussion), composer, and arranger Mulatu Astatke (the name is spelled Astatqé on his French releases) is a household name in his native country, where he is known as the father of Ethio-jazz, a unique blend of pop, modern jazz, traditional Ethiopian music, Latin rhythms, Caribbean reggae, and Afro-funk. Born in 1943 in the west Ethiopia city of Jimma, Mulatu studied music in London, New York City, and Boston, where he was the first African graduate...
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Mulatu of Ethiopia, Mulatu Astatke
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