This project is the vision of Dub Colossus – Dubulah – aka Nick Page. Composer, guitarist, bass player, producer and programmer Nick has worked with a long list of notable artists and eccentrics. In 1990 he formed Trans-Global Underground with Tim Whelan and Hammid Man-Tu, with whom he produced-wrote-played six albums before leaving in 1997 to form Temple of Sound. Once Temple of Sound had run its course, Nick then decided to concentrate on his favourite alter ego, Dub Colossus. Having signed the project to Real World Records, Nick produced 3 albums for the label, beginning with ‘A Town Called Addis’, which was released in 2008, ‘Addis Through The Looking Glass’ in 2011, and ‘Dub Me Tender Vols 1&2’ in 2012.
A Town Called Addis was inspired by meeting, writing and working with Ethiopian singers and musicians in Addis Ababa in August 2006. The collaboration between Dub Colossus and these amazing musicians covers Azmari and traditional styles as well as the popular singing styles of the 60s and 70s.
A Town called Addis was released in the autumn of 2008 to much critical acclaim, and a live version of the band was put together featuring 5 of the Ethiopian musicians featured on the album: Singer Sintayehu ‘Mimi’ Zenebe is known as “the Edith Piaf” of Ethiopian song and owns the Doku Club in Addis, a venue devoted to traditional Azmari music. Fellow singer, Tsedenia Gebremarkos, is a well-known and respected performer and radio presenter, and winner of a Kora award as the best female singer in East Africa in 2004. Master saxophonist, Feleke Hailu, is also a classical composer, lecturer and Head of Music at the Yared Music School. He is part of a dynastic tradition that stretches back far beyond the classic hits his father arranged for the Ethiopiques series legend Mahmoud Ahmed. Extraordinary pianist Samuel Yirga was an exciting new discovery – a young prodigy of classical and ethiojazz and student at the Yared Music School, and has since released a solo album on Real World. They were joined by Teremage Woretaw who, with his plaintive voice and messenqo (one-string fiddle), is a youthful carrier of the ancient Azmari tradition.
This band toured throughout 2009 and 2010, playing at festivals across the globe. From Glastonbury, to WOMAD, audiences delighted in the big sounds created by this big band. The full 12 piece Dub Colossus live band of this time was a tight, vibrant and exciting band. A spectacle to behold, this band included a four piece brass section, percussion, keyboards, krar, bass, drums, guitar, and of course the stunning vocals of Tsedenia and Mimi, mixing up traditional Ethiopian sounds with modern dub twist.
The second album ‘Addis Through The Looking Glass‘ was released in April 2011 to much acclaim.
“The aim”, says Nick, “is to constantly surprise.” Addis Through The Looking Glass does just that. A lengthy, even more varied and sophisticated album that moved the music on – with the Ethiopian contingent playing a greater role in the proceedings. It’s still an experimental fusion set, not a straightforward recording of Ethiopian songs, but the successes of the previous two years led to growing trust and confidence in the band.
“This time they were saying to me “we’d like to show you our take on it, rather than you interpreting us”, explains Dubulah. “It was a good exchange. They would come up with the subject matter, and ideas for the next phase of the group. And I’d transport some of their ideas into another world”. As with the first album, recording took place mostly in Addis Ababa, where a local musician Abiyou Solomon, who plays bass on the album, lent the band a room in his house to use as a studio, “and it was brilliant – there were three cupboards which we could use as vocal booths, or put the horn section. It all worked well apart from the sound of rain on the roof – the rain hits very hard in Addis”.
There were further sessions in the UK, where the UK based musicians became involved. They include the reggae singer Mykaell Riley, famous for his work with Steel Pulse, ex Jamiroquai drummer Nick Van Gelder, the Horns of Negus brass section, bass work from Dr Das of the Asian Dub Foundation. As for Dubulah himself, he plays guitar, bass, harmonicas and keyboards, produced the set, and co-wrote several of the songs.
The result is an album that constantly surprises and constantly changes direction, from atmospheric, wide-screen, drifting jazz-dub instrumentals like the title track, through to breathy love songs from Tsedenia, and bluesy traditional pieces featuring the messenqo or krar, now treated to a Dub Colossus make-over, with spacey, microtonal keyboard effects .
2012 saw another change of tack, with the release of ‘Dub Me Tender Vols 1&2’: A dub-heavy album, reworking some existing Dub Colossus album tracks alongside new material. This album subsequently went on to win a Songlines Music Award for ‘best cross cultural collaboration’.
To promote this album, a new live version of the band – the Dub Colossus Dub Band – was put together; featuring the UK based members of the band and the vocals of PJ Higgins and Mykaell Riley. A short tour in the UK showed that this line up had great potential, and a subsequent trip to the studio led to the 2013 mini album ‘Dub Don’t Live Here Anymore’. Musically and lyrically distinct from the releases that preceded it, the band now appeared on the Echomaster label for the first time.
Where the first two albums focussed on Dubulah & Ethiopian musicians in collaboration, ‘Dub Don’t Live Here Anymore’ is more of a UK/Jamaican affair, reflecting the times and events happening locally and globally, the impact they are having on us all….social political and economic. It’s a natural progression from ‘Dub Me Tender’.
2013 saw the Dub Band going from strength to strength, with performances including Glastonbury Festival, and ending the year at the Songlines Music Award winners concert at The Barbican Centre in London. It also saw another visit to the studio, with the resulting album due for release mid 2014.
‘Addis To Omega’ takes the project further into explorations of the UK/Jamaican musical heritage, with a little sidestep into other avenues along the way. With guest performances from a wide variety of musicians, and recording sessions taking place in London, Barcelona, Paris and Tuva, this album delves into many a musical genre, but wraps it all into one dubby package. Bass Culture meets Dubadelica!