SUNKEN TREA­SURE

Hailu Mer­gia & Dahlak Band - ‘Wede Harer Guzo’

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - TICKET STUBS - Donal Di­neen

This is by far the most re­cently un­earthed Sunken Trea­sure we’ve fea­tured in the his­tory of this col­umn. We’ve got the peer­less

Awe­some Tapes from Africa to thank for its mirac­u­lous un­veil­ing af­ter a cas­sette posted to the la­bel from Mr Hailu Mer­gia him­self turned out to be a golden ticket. Some­times pre­cious goods come in small pack­ages. It got past the post. Win­ner al­right.

This LP is a trove of such daz­zling qual­ity it be­holds us to pass on the good news, so hear ye! The ti­tle track is a thing of beauty. The group, with which the im­pe­ri­ous Mer­gia was moon­light­ing from his of­fi­cial role in the revered Walias Band, are on fire.

This col­lab­o­ra­tion sent sparks fly­ing. They sounded like soldiers of for­tune will­ing to pay the price. Every­thing sways and the vo­cals soar in tan­dem with far-out licks from Mer­gia’s nim­ble fin­gers. It feels an­cient and modern. All man­ner of western breezes waft into a heady mix of grooves of Amharic ori­gin. It’s an in­tox­i­cat­ing brew. Hot. Hot. Hot.

It dates from the year of 1978, a short four years af­ter the mil­i­tary Derg had taken power in Ethiopia fol­low­ing the oust­ing of Em­peror Haile Se­lassie. The golden age of mu­sic was be­ing sti­fled. The regime had put the brakes of Addis Ababa’s pul­sat­ing nightlife scene and mov­ing cas­settes un­der­ground be­came the modus operandi.

This was one such mover in that sys­tem. It was a big hit on the scene. There’s a vi­tal­ity and soul to these record­ings that’s stir­ring in ev­ery way. The Dahlak band had some­thing to say and they were say­ing it with a gi­ant in their midst.

Their rein­ter­pre­ta­tions of Ethiopian stan­dards are given coats of many colours. There are gospel echoes in the vo­cal tunes. The grooves that Mer­gia con­cocts cir­cle ma­ji­cal msytery tours around the world. Peo­ple get ready. There’s a change a-com­ing.

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