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MUSIC MONDAY: Mulatu Astatke and the Vanguard of Ethiopian Jazz (LISTEN)

Written by Good Black News

March 15, 2021

by Marlon West (FB: marlon.west1 Twitter: @marlonw IG: stlmarlonwest Spotify: marlonwest)

Mulatu Astatke was born in 1943, and is widely sighted as being the greatest innovator of Ethiopian jazz. Astatke took the fusion of traditional Ethiopian folk music and American jazz to a new level.

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He explained its roots to the BBC:

‘There are tribes in the south called the Derashe They are surrounded by people who play five tone music but they have created a diminished 12-tone scale. Diminished scales are very important in jazz music especially for improvising. We learn how Charlie Parker came up with diminished scales as well as Claude Debussy and Bach. But always on my mind is the question of who were first with the scale, these people or the Derashe tribe?”

By the late 1960s, he helped create a ‘golden age’ in Addis Ababa. It was in full swing in 1973 when American jazz legend, Duke Ellington, came to town and performed with with Mulatu Astatke.

Much of that thriving Ethiopian jazz scene came crashing down the following year, when a Soviet-backed military junta known as the Derg overthrew the government. It left tens of thousands dead and nearly destroyed the thriving musical community.

When the Soviet Union broke apart in 1991, and the Derg was subsequently overthrown, and the budding democracy quickly became a thriving home of musical creativity.

Ethiopian Jazz hit new global audiences through CD releases that included the Ethiopiques series and Rough Guide albums. Astatke’s songs fueled the soundtrack of Jim Jarmusch‘s film Broken Flowers in 2005.

Samples of his were used by Nas, Damian Marley, Kanye West, Cut Chemist, Quantic, Madlib, and Oddisee.

Today, Mulatu Astatke is still active, and collaborating with a new generation of artists including The Heliocentrics and Black Jesus Experience. His most recent album was released in 2020 at age 76.

Stay stay, sane, and kind, you all.

Marlon West (photo courtesy Marlon West)

Original article source: | Article may or may not reflect the views of KLEK 102.5 FM or The Voice of Arkansas Minority Advocacy Council

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