11 Songs, 58 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Debo Band is an 11-piece ensemble based in Boston but rooted in Ethiopian psychedelic jazz. Bandleader Danny Mekonnen is an Ethiopian-American saxophonist whose direction lets the band play the music with a natural contemporary feel, rather than a genre-worshipping throwback style. “Akale Wube” opens with a timeless groove; the rhythm section sounds like it could have been recorded in the late '60s or in 2012. Over this, the brass section plays like a troupe equally raised on world music and late-'70s ska albums from 2-Tone Records. Lead singer Bruck Tesfaye has both a commanding and charismatic presence. Check out “Ney Ney Weleba,” where his vocals follow the rhythmic cadence and also coast above it with serpentine-moving melodies. Still, it’s the layered cacophony at the song's end that's most arresting—especially when Mekonnen reels back the maelstrom into one kinetic movement. Even when the band breaks from its preferred style and takes on klezmer ("Habesha") or cabaret ("Ambassel"), it keeps a thick, pulsing root of handsome Ethiopian soul.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Debo Band is an 11-piece ensemble based in Boston but rooted in Ethiopian psychedelic jazz. Bandleader Danny Mekonnen is an Ethiopian-American saxophonist whose direction lets the band play the music with a natural contemporary feel, rather than a genre-worshipping throwback style. “Akale Wube” opens with a timeless groove; the rhythm section sounds like it could have been recorded in the late '60s or in 2012. Over this, the brass section plays like a troupe equally raised on world music and late-'70s ska albums from 2-Tone Records. Lead singer Bruck Tesfaye has both a commanding and charismatic presence. Check out “Ney Ney Weleba,” where his vocals follow the rhythmic cadence and also coast above it with serpentine-moving melodies. Still, it’s the layered cacophony at the song's end that's most arresting—especially when Mekonnen reels back the maelstrom into one kinetic movement. Even when the band breaks from its preferred style and takes on klezmer ("Habesha") or cabaret ("Ambassel"), it keeps a thick, pulsing root of handsome Ethiopian soul.

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