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Ethiopiques Volume 23


The story of Orchestra Ethiopia (1963-1975) is unusual and compelling in more ways than one. Just as modern music was reaching the peak of its excellence and popularity, at the very same moment, via Orchestra Ethiopia's unlikely undertaking, traditional music acquired a legitimacy that the times had tended to deprive it of. Between the coup d'état (Dec 1960) and the revolution (1974), Ethiopia was combining, unbeknownst to all, both the end of an empire and the "golden age" of its music. Orchestra Ethiopia's initiative can be chalked up to the far-sightedness and the enthusiasm of foreigners who were only staying in Ethiopia temporarily: first of all Egyptian musician, composer and musicologist Halim El-Dabh, followed by American Peace Corps volunteers John Coe and Charles Sutton. It was only in 1966 that the Orchestra found its definitive Ethiopian mentor in Tesfaye Lemma. Orchestra Ethiopia was far more than just a folk music ensemble: it made an important contribution to the task of collection, especially in the southern provinces, so rich yet so little explored musically up to that point —because looked down upon in general. Although Tesfaye Lemma released several records with this group, we have chosen to begin this rediscovery mainly via previously unreleased works (just five exceptions : 3-11-16-18-22). All display the open-mindedness and creativity that inspired Orchestra Ethiopia's organizers and musicians alike. Many of their works are awaiting publication or reissue. What we refer to as tradition is in no way set in stone. It is nothing but the most recent embodiment, the latest flash — in the memory of mankind — of a culture in movement, which has never stopped evolving and swallowing up the previous states of this same culture. Orchestra Ethiopia's experience and hardships perfectly illustrate this constant flux. 32 page CD booklet + .pdf document on the CD.