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


Anonymous said...

Just can't beat the Ethiopian stuff...

Nice ;^)

Anonymous said...

Very good music...
Keep goin'on...

Fèrendj said...

Sorry, but this IS NOT Alèmayèhu Eshèté.

Anonymous said...

Ferendj: Do you have any idea who it may be?

Anonymous said...

"Sorry, but this IS NOT Alèmayèhu Eshèté."

There is certainly some resemblance to Eshete's later stuff where he uses the cheezy keys and is a bit more primitive than any others I have heard, I will admit.

You might try the folks at this site to see if they may have any info

Anonymous said...

Tamrat Ferendji?

Is the name of your poster a hint?

Anonymous said...

Hi Joe,

My first time here. What a gem and what a find!!! The poster Ferengi is right. This is definitely not Alemayehu Eshete. The voice belongs to Wubeshet Fisseha, 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.

Here are the track listings--not sure of about tracks 3 and 4 since they are in Orimiffa and Tigrigna respectively.

1. Abesha Nat
2. Shemunmunaye
3. Hali Meru Meru (Oromiffa)
4. Kab Semay Fiqri (Tigrigna)
5. Che Belew (you were right on this one)
6. Belashew

Hope this helps. Continue your great work. Thanks a heap.

Anonymous said...

Hi !!!

Thanx for eqxuisite music of Wibushet Fisseha...believe me or not, but I do have one of his photographs.. how can I upload to you ??


icastico said...

More from this artist

musique said...

Great great music, thank you!

David said...

What a voice! Great tape, thanks for introducing me to this star from East Africa