Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

8

Hailu Mergia and The Walias: Tche Belew

Jakob Baekgaard By

Sign in to view read count
There is a musical moment of great significance in Jim Jarmusch's road movie Broken Flowers. The main character, Don, is going on a journey and has received a cassette with music. When he puts the cassette into the tape deck, the strange, deep and funky sounds of Ethiopian master Mulatu Astatke emerge from the speakers. Music like this has fascinated many listeners and the acclaimed series Ethiopiques, which has reached 29 volumes, speaks about the demand for Ethiopian sounds.

There is still a lot of great music to discover and, fortunately, Brian Shimkovitz, who runs the blog and label Awesome Tapes from Africa, has unearthed one of the true gems of Ethiopian music: Tche Belew by Hailu Mergia and the Walias. As it is pointed out in the excellent liner notes, the album does not belong to the golden age of Ethiopian music, which is considered to be the period from the early 1960s to the mid- 1970s. However, the instrumental album, released in 1977, has become a true collector's item and it is easy to hear why.

Bandleader, keyboardist and arranger Hailu Mergia gathered a strong group for the recording of the album, including saxophonists Moges Habte and Abebe Kassa, drummer Temare Haregu and special guest Mulatu Astetke on vibes. At the time, Mergia had been working the nightclub-scene in Addis Ababa and knew how to create funky and elegant sounds, but Tche Belew broadened the musical palette, with no less than four of the band members helping out with the arrangements to create a diverse canvas of sound.

There are elements of jazz on the swaying, swinging rhythm of "Yikirta Lemminalehu" with Astatke's chiming vibes and walking bass patterns from bassist Melake Gabrie while "Lomi Tera-tera" is all wah-wah guitar, subtle percussion and spiraling arabesque organ figures from Mergia.

Mergia was influenced by organist Jimmy Smith and there are traces of soul, blues, jazz and funk in the band's deep instrumental cuts, but all these genres are filtered through a specific Ethiopian sensibility, with the characteristic scale system playing an important role. It is also about the lush contrapuntal clarity and balance between the instruments. Especially the use of both organ and piano is successful, with the added power of the horns and a rhythm section that is both swinging and tight. Tche Belew shows how sophisticated funky music can be and it is an album that connoisseurs of Ethiopian music should not be without.

Track Listing: Tche Belew; Yemiasleks Fikir; Yikarta Lemminalehu; Musicawi Silt; Lomi Tera-tera; Woghenei; Ibakish Tarekigne; Birtukane; Eti Gual Blenai.

Personnel: Hailu Mergia: Godwin and Farfisa organs; Moges Habte: saxophone and flute; Abebe Kassa: alto saxophone; Yohannes Tekola: trumpet; Melake Gabrie: bass guitar; Mahmmud Aman: guitar; Temare Haregu: drums; Girma Beyene: piano; Mulatu Astatke: vibes; Aster Aweke: backing chorus; Getachew Kassa: backing chorus; Tegest Abate: backing chorus.

Title: Tche Belew | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Awesome Tapes From Africa


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Formidable CD/LP/Track Review Formidable
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: November 24, 2017
Read Cochonnerie CD/LP/Track Review Cochonnerie
by John Sharpe
Published: November 24, 2017
Read Threes CD/LP/Track Review Threes
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 24, 2017
Read Smoke CD/LP/Track Review Smoke
by Joe Gatto
Published: November 24, 2017
Read Acknowledgement CD/LP/Track Review Acknowledgement
by Don Phipps
Published: November 23, 2017
Read Lessons And Fairytales CD/LP/Track Review Lessons And Fairytales
by Jerome Wilson
Published: November 23, 2017
Read "Signaling" CD/LP/Track Review Signaling
by Troy Dostert
Published: May 11, 2017
Read "Quartet Plus, Volume 2" CD/LP/Track Review Quartet Plus, Volume 2
by Jack Bowers
Published: May 21, 2017
Read "Sing House" CD/LP/Track Review Sing House
by Troy Dostert
Published: June 11, 2017
Read "Passing and Longing and There Is Only a Trace Left" CD/LP/Track Review Passing and Longing and There Is Only a Trace Left
by Geno Thackara
Published: April 15, 2017
Read "Live at Club Helsinki" CD/LP/Track Review Live at Club Helsinki
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 17, 2017
Read "Lessons And Fairytales" CD/LP/Track Review Lessons And Fairytales
by Jerome Wilson
Published: November 23, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Please support out sponsor