New and Notable Releases

Rating: NNN

Considering that the only real examples we have of Ethiopian pop music are the 25-year-old recordings by Alemayehu Eshete, Mahmoud Ahmed and the rest of the Ethiopiques clan, the promise of a new Amharic pop superstar sounds like gold. New York shouter Ejigayehu “Gigi” Shibabaw seems like the real deal, a singer who looks like a model and can wail with the best. Unfortunately, producer Bill Laswell has buried Gigi’s fantastic voice beneath layers of his tedious world-dub schmaltz. As a consequence of bringing in an all-star 29-piece band that includes Herbie Hancock, Henry Threadgill, Pharoah Sanders and Wayne Shorter, he removes any intensity from the recording, creating a few interesting percussion patterns but mostly layers of impenetrable ambient mush. Gigi’s still got an amazing voice, but she’ll need to hook up with better beats to have it heard.

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