Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou - Ethiopiques Vol. 21: Piano Solo (Buda Musique, 2006)
A hybrid of American piano blues and traditional Ethiopian and European classical scales. And though the music speaks for itself, Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou has quite a story behind her (detailed in the review below.) Out of all the Ethiopiques releases I've heard this is by far my favorite and that's really saying a lot, Buda Musique has managed to put out over 20 releases and almost every one of them contains a unique and unfamiliar sound. Highly recommended for those searching for nostalgia in the sometimes alienating world of Ethiopian music.
Here's a review:
"Okay, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. The always amazing Ethiopiques series continues on past volume 20 with no end in sight. We were wrongly led to believe that volume 20 was to be the last in this, one of our all time favorite series, and we were heartbroken. On top of that, the final installment was quite surprisingly a live recording of modern day American musicians jamming with an Ethiopian band. It was still cool, but it was a bit tough to figure out why the curaters of this series would choose to go out on that kind of admittedly anticlimactic note, when there were certainly hundreds of buried treasures from the golden age of Ethiopian music that most definitely deserved to be unearthed. This newst volume quickly sets everything right, being entirely the solo piano of a woman named Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou. Her playing is devastatingly lovely and haunting. A curious hybrid of old time jazz and classical, but still truly Ethiopian. Dark and contemplative, moody but subtly playful as well. Culled mainly from recordings from the late 40's early 50's, a period during which Guebrou had recently left the convent due to illness, and then continued to compose and perform as a way of raising money for charity. And THAT's on the heels of having moved to Egypt and then returned to Ethiopia a figure of high society, her dream of playing piano dashed by the Emperor, which led her to sickness and then near death, she even received the last rites, survived and then joined the Imperial Guard, went back to school to study business finally fleeing to join a convent and become a nun. All the while continuing to play music, in fact she continues to perform to this day, in Ethiopia where she still lives, four of her most recent recordings (from 1996) are included here as well. Her story is amazing, the liner notes go into great detail about her fantastic and adventurous life, but her music is equally as remarkable, the sound and feel is so dense with memory and imagery, musical but somehow quite visual, warm and woozy, a fuzzy, sepia toned old timey feel, due in no small part to the recording, which is quite reminiscent of old 78's, the soundtrack to movie Crumb, that sort of thing, dark rumbling low notes underpin sweet swirls and delicate flurries of minor key melody, sweet and lowdown for sure, warm evenings, back porches, big beautifully appointed parlors, huge empty fields, grass waving in the breeze, long late night wanders, moonlight strolls, so completely dreamy and lovely. Definitely one of our favorites so far in the series. We hope it never ends!" - AQUARIUS RECORDS
Also, through emahoymusicfoundation.org you can teach underprivileged African children how to play an instrument while learning about traditional African music yourself! It seems like a pretty legit operation and if you happen to play an instrument and you're interested in having a first hand exposure to Africa and it's wonderful and diverse music and culture, I'd really recommend looking into it. And hey even if you don't qualify, you can donate 15 dollars and they'll send you this very cd as a thank you, WOW!
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