Showing posts with label Tigrinya. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tigrinya. Show all posts

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Scooped Again!




As you may know, I've periodically been posting classic and hard-to-find music from Ethiopia here. For some time, I've wanted to make available Lebäy (Toteel Music), a 1984 cassette by Eritrean musical legend Bereket Mengisteab (and yes, Eritrea is now an independent country, but in 1984 it was part of Ethiopia, so technically it qualifies). This is the only recording by Bereket that I possess, and I've long wondered about this enigmatic singer.

Once again, I've been scooped by one of my fellow bloggers, as Matthew Lavoie of Voice of America's African Music Treasures devotes his latest post
to this iconic musician. With his usual meticulous attention to detail, Matthew supplies a wealth of background information on his subject, having interviewed the great maestro personally in the VOA studios. There's nothing more I can add, but here's a small taste:.


. . .Bereket Mengisteab was born in 1938 in the small village of Hazega, located about eighteen miles north of the Eritrean capital of Asmara, and this is where he spent the first two decades of his life farming. During these years in Hazega, Bereket taught himself the Krar (a five stringed lyre) and honed his musical skills, participating in all of the musical rituals that punctuate rural life. Then, after spending a few years in Asmara (which was part of Ethiopia at the time), Bereket moved to Addis Abeba in 1961. And it was in Addis that Bereket made his stage debut, as a member of the Haile Selassie Theater Orchestra; during the previous year he spent in Asmara he never performed outside of his circle of friends. Bereket stayed with the Haile Selassie Theater Orchestra for a little over a decade, performing with the group throughout Ethiopia, in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Senegal (at the 1966 Festival mondial des Arts Nègres), and in Mexico (at the 1968 Summer Olympics). During these years he also made his first recordings, nine singles for the Philips label (I don't know the exact dates and have not been able to find any of these singles). . .

Francis Falceto writes, in the liner notes of his excellent compilation Ethiopiques 5: Tigrigna music Tigray/Eritrea 1970-1975 (Buda Musique 82965-2):

. . . Tigrigna music, dominent in Tigray [province] and Eritrea, is quite distinct, both rhythmically and melodically, from "Ethiopian" music, although both share the so-called "pentatonic" (or five-note) scale. The instruments and the traditional musical practices are similar, while their names may vary. The massenqo (single-corded fiddle played with a bow) and especially the krar (a six-corded lyre) remain the most prevalent instruments. In Tigrigna country, the massenqo is more commonly termed tchèrewata and the same wandering minstrel that Ethiopians of the central highlands call azmari is better known here as a wata. Ethiopians call the lepers and beggars who sing at dawn lalibèla: here they are termed hamien or arho. Sometimes the krar is even called massenqo. In a notable development over the last few decades, many Eritrean musicians have encouraged the spread of the electric krar, used here widely (far more than in Ethiopia), and many excel at the instrument. . .
Of course, you need to read Matthew's post and enjoy the musical samples he provides. For those who want more, here's Lebäy, in all of its wild, wailing wah-wahed-out glory:

"Lebäy" means "my heart." It can alternately mean "my emotions":

Bereket Mengisteab - Lebäy

"Wind of the Desert":

Bereket Mengisteab - Nefas nay Bäräkha

"Wäzzamu" = "handsome":

Bereket Mengisteab - Wäzzamu

The title of this song means "wicked flute." He is scolding the flute, probably because her sound evokes bad memories:

Bereket Mengisteab - Täkkalit Shanbeqo

A comb made of ebony, worn as adornment:

Bereket Mengisteab - Zebbä Mästära

Part of a proverb, the title of this song means "restless hyena":

Bereket Mengisteab - Hewwekh Zeb’i

"His Horse":

Bereket Mengisteab - Färäsu


"Utter Darkness":

Bereket Mengisteab - Deqdeq S’elmat

Many many thanks to Andreas Wetter for transliterating and translating the song titles. Andreas has recently started his own weblog,
Kezira, devoted to music from the Horn of Africa. Of course, it's highly recommended.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Another Ethiopian Songstress




If you're a fan of Aster Aweke or Kuku Sebsebe, you'll no doubt enjoy this cassette by Ethiopian vocalist Martha Ashagari.

Ärä Bakeh (Ambassel Music Shop) was released in 1993 shortly after the fall of the Derg, but Ashagari has been singing professionally since 1988 with the Abyssinia and Roha Bands, and during the '90s had her own nightclub in Addis Ababa. In 1996 she recorded the CD Child's Love/Ye-Lij Fiker, which is available online from AIT Records (I included a tune from it on my compilation African Divas Vol. 2).

Ashagari is notable for her unique vocal tone, somewhere between a sob and a wail. Side 1 of
Ärä Bakəh typifies the '80s-'90s Ethiopian style, but Martha really hits her stride with side 2 of the cassette, especially the emotional ballads "Zoma" and "Ende Näh" and the Tigrinya song "Sälam Bäluläy."

Martha Ashagari -
Ärä Bakeh

Martha Ashagari -
Feqer Näw

Martha Ashagari -
Alchalkutem

Martha Ashagari -
Bämen Yedanyal

Martha Ashagari -
Gorded

Martha Ashagari -
Dämayle

Martha Ashagari -
Zoma (Yäbati lej)

Martha Ashagari -
Endäzzihəm Allä

Martha Ashagari - E
nde Näh

Martha Ashagari -
Sälam Bäluläy (Tigrinya)

Download
Ärä Bakeh as a zipped file here. As usual, I'm including a scan of the original cassette inlay card if someone would care to correct my transliteration of the Ge'ez text (click to enlarge):



Update: Thanks to Andreas Wetter for his correction of my transliteration.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Another Mystery Tape




Note: This post was updated and revised on July 29, 2008 and on September 19, 2009.

I wrote this on June 15, 2008:

Here's another "mystery cassette" that I was given many years ago by a friend. All I know about it is that is supposedly by the great Ethiopian singer Alèmayèhu Eshèté and the title is Amronyali or something similar. I was told that Track 2 was "Amronyali," and I was able to identify Track 5 as "Che Belew," an old standard about the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. As there was no inlay card for the cassette or even a label I can't tell you anything about the songs, when they were recorded, or even confirm that the artist is Alèmayèhu Eshèté. The sparse arrangements (synthesizer & drum machine, usually the bane of my existence) are more than compensated for by the quality of the vocals. The title track in particular is just spine-chilling!

Alèmayèhu Eshèté has been called "Ethiopia's Elvis" or "The James Brown of Ethiopia" for his musical style and manner of dress. He's been on the scene since the mid-1950s, when he revealed a talent for imitating the singers Little Richard, Elvis Presley and Ray Charles. In 1956 he joined the Police Orchestra in Addis Abeba, and from 1961 onward has formed numerous bands and recorded uncounted songs that have become popular standards.

During the "Derg Years"
Eshèté seemed to drop out of sight. I heard an unconfirmed rumor that he had become a "born-again Christian" and was living in exile in Washington, DC. However, with political changes in Ethiopia he reemerged and recorded a new CD, Addis Ababa (Shanachie Records 64045, 1992). In 1998 AIT Records released The Best of Alèmayèhu Eshèté (AIT 013), featuring re-recorded versions of his hits. Most excitingly, his original classic recordings are now becoming available again through the Ethiopiques series.

If anyone can tell us more about this recording, or what the song titles are, please comment, and I will update this post accordingly.
Thanks to reader/listener "Ethio Jazz" I can report that this recording is not by Alèmayèhu Eshèté, but by Wubeshet Fisseha (picture at top of post). Ethio also writes: ". . . he is on Keyboard as well. This was probably recorded in the mid to latter '8o's in Washington, DC. Sadly, Wubeshet passed away in 1997." I can confirm that this tape was made in 1985 or earlier, as it was given to me in summer of that year. I've been unable to find any information about Wubeshet Fisseha, but I will keep trying.

I have changed the track titles to reflect the new information Ethio Jazz has given us. Tracks 3 and 4 are in Orimiffa and Tigrinya respectively. The other tracks are in Amharinya. A warning about the song "Shemunmunaye": At several points (4:55, 9:36, 15:30 and 16:10) the sound drops out. The defect is on the original cassette, not in your internet connection!

Wubeshet Fisseha - Abesha Nat

Wubeshet Fisseha - Shemunmunaye

Wubeshet Fisseha - Hali Meru Meru

Wubeshet Fisseha - Kab Semay Fiqri

Wubeshet Fisseha - Che Belew

Wubeshet Fisseha - Belashew