9 Songs

EDITORS’ NOTES

Mulatu Astatke has been at the forefront of the fusion between jazz and Ethiopian pop music since the ‘60s. He’s a talented composer, arranger, and player whose work blends African rhythms, textures, and vocals with Western grooves and horn arrangements. The best of his early work is collected on the classic Ethiopiques 4 compilation, but Astatke hasn't been content to rest on his laurels. Recording more recently with London’s Heliocentrics and Boston’s Either/Orchestra and providing music for the soundtrack to the 2005 film Broken Flowers, he now returns with his augmented working band called Steps Ahead for a set that captures all the beauty, mystery, and groove that makes his music so magical. Those seeking something exotic will find it on “Motherland Abay,” but the meat of the matter is in the North African–tinged “Surma,” the Afro-funk-ish “Gamo," and the hard-grooving “Azmari” (the remix is particularly good). Up to Astatke’s usual high standards, Sketches of Ethiopia will work for newbies and fans alike.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Mulatu Astatke has been at the forefront of the fusion between jazz and Ethiopian pop music since the ‘60s. He’s a talented composer, arranger, and player whose work blends African rhythms, textures, and vocals with Western grooves and horn arrangements. The best of his early work is collected on the classic Ethiopiques 4 compilation, but Astatke hasn't been content to rest on his laurels. Recording more recently with London’s Heliocentrics and Boston’s Either/Orchestra and providing music for the soundtrack to the 2005 film Broken Flowers, he now returns with his augmented working band called Steps Ahead for a set that captures all the beauty, mystery, and groove that makes his music so magical. Those seeking something exotic will find it on “Motherland Abay,” but the meat of the matter is in the North African–tinged “Surma,” the Afro-funk-ish “Gamo," and the hard-grooving “Azmari” (the remix is particularly good). Up to Astatke’s usual high standards, Sketches of Ethiopia will work for newbies and fans alike.

TITLE TIME
5:00
5:15
6:08
6:12
10:03
6:30
8:34
4:42
5:04

About Mulatu Astatke

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 of the Berklee College of Music, and went on to work with several acclaimed jazz artists, including a guest spot with Duke Ellington in 1971. Further schooled in New York’s dance clubs in the 1960s, Mulatu recorded three of his LPs in the city, Afro-Latin Soul, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 in 1966 and Mulatu of Ethiopia in 1972. Most of his records were released by Amha Records, including several singles and the 1974 LP Ethio Jazz. Mulatu’s work brought a renewed focus on instrumentation and rhythm to Ethiopian pop music, shepherding in a golden age in that country’s pop and jazz circles from 1968 to 1974. He went on to found a music school and open his own club, and he stayed active as an arranger, advisor, and DJ. In 2004 he met the Massachusetts-based Either/Orchestra and formed a long-running collaboration with the band. Never one to paint himself into a creative corner and always expanding his musical vision, Mulatu also collaborated with the London-based psyche-jazz configuration the Heliocentrics in 2008 on the album Inspiration Information, Vol. 3, which included updated versions of many of his classic compositions. He also contributed to the soundtrack for Jim Jarmusch’s 2005 film Broken Flowers, which brought him a whole lot of new fans outside of his homeland. ~ Steve Leggett

  • ORIGIN
    Jimma, Ethiopia
  • BORN
    Dec 19, 1943

Top Songs by Mulatu Astatke

Top Albums by Mulatu Astatke

Listeners Also Played