A Town Called Addis

Written by: Dub Colossus

This project brings together an extraordinary but little known African musical heritage, a labour of love recording in a makeshift studio in down-town Addis Ababa and then a journey back to Real World to capture for the first time ever in the UK some of Ethiopia’s finest performers.

This project is the vision of Dub Colossus – Dubulah – aka Nick Page. Composer, guitarist, bass player and programmer Nick started his music career with Michael Riley (Steel Pulse) and in 1990 formed Transglobal Underground with Tim and Hammi, produced-wrote-played six albums before leaving in 1997 to form Temple of Sound with Neil Sparkes.

Ethiopian music is the hidden gem of Africa. At the end of the Sixties and the early Seventies, Ethiopia was in the dying years of the imperial decline of Haile Selassie and the early years of a brutally repressive junta led by Mengistu. Within the confines of this stifling and constrictive environment there flowered some astonishing music. At times showing Fela Kuti’s influences, in the big band sax flavour and other times a different take on regional music, this is a music that is accessible to all and has been championed by the likes of Robert Plant, Brian Eno and Elvis Costello. The style of contemporary Ethiopia music captured by Dub Colossus ranges from dreamy blues, hypnotic grooves, jazz piano and driving funk brass.

“A Town Called Addis” was inspired by meeting , writing and working with singers and musicians in Addis Ababa in August 2006,and is a collaboration between Dub Colossus (Nick Page) and these amazing musicians covering Azmari and traditional styles as well as the popular singing styles of the 60s and 70s. It seeks to combine the golden years of ethiopique beats (popular again thanks to the release of the critically acclaimed ‘Ethiopique’ compliation ) and ethiojazz with the dub reggae styles of early 70s reggae groups like the Abyssinians, Mighty Diamonds and so on. along with a hint of Sun Ra…” (Dub Colossus/aka Nick Page)

The first sessions took place in a breeze block hut under corrugated iron roof bombarded by the sounds of the rainy season high up on the mountain plateau where Addis is built. “…the sound of children playing, dogs barking and women washing all permeate the sessions and help the flavour of the record, albeit as ambient smoke…..Although a howling cat chasing a rat under the roof destroyed one vocal take completely…!”

We brought these unique urban field recordings home to Real World to complete the picture. In March 2008 we invited a group of outstanding performers from Addis to travel to the UK. Some of these artists are unknown talents who have never traveled outside of their country before now, while others such as singer Sintayehu ‘Mimi’ Zenebe (Addis Ababa night club owner and know as the Ethiopian Edith Piaf ) and master saxophonist Feleke Hailu (a classical composer, lecturer and head of music at the Yared Music School and part of a dynastic tradition that stretches back far beyond the classic hits his father arranged for Mahmoud Ahmad in the late 1960s) have a huge reputation. They are joined by Teremag Weretow who, with his plaintive voice, playing his messenqo ( one-string fiddle) is a youthful carrier of an ancient tradition; extraordinary pianist Samuel Yirga is an exciting new discovery – a young prodigy of classical and Ethiojazz and finally the glamourous star Tsedenia Gebremarkos, winner of a Kora award as the best female singer in East Africa in 2004,

From the most primitive recording context to one of the best in the world, this project is an audio journey – and discovery of one of the most alluring, funky and seductive genres of African music.

Leave a Reply