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Ethiopiques Volume 14, Negus of Ethiopian Sax


Probably the most revered veteran of Ethiopian saxophone, Gétatchèw Mèkurya is the 'inventor' of an extremely distinctive musical style. Amongst Ethiopia's numerous vocal genres, there exists a form of singing that is purely warlik: epic and declamatory, harsh and hoarse-voiced, it is known as 'shellela'. This bellicose thunderbolt, quite strictly vocal, was improvised before each attack. Gétatchèw Mèkurya had the brilliant idea of transposing the genre to his saxophone, and here we encounter a musical form that is daring, improvisational, angry and impetuous. Without resorting to clichés, shellela saxophone was a sort of free jazz before its time: Gétatchèw Mèkurya remembers trying out the first heady strains in 1952-53, and he still knows nothing about Ornette Coleman or Albert Ayler. All the tracks on this CD were previously released by Philips Ethiopia in 1972, except for the the last piece, a rare document from the late 50s. Note: Gétatchèw Mèkurya has toured with the Dutch punk-rock band The Ex (Film by Stéphane Jourdain, DVD Ethiosonic here), played with the American big band Either/ORchestra (Ethiopiques 20), and is featured on an album by the British Tamil singer Susheela Raman.