When Paris-based world music label Buda Musique began the Ethiopiques series, reissuing the largely unknown Ethiopian popular recordings of the 60s and 70s, it couldn't have had any idea that the music, great as it was, would catch on the way it has recently. When you have Jim Jarmusch creating a feature film like Broken Flowers around Mulatu Astatké's spellbinding music and Kanye West sampling the Ethio-jazz joint Tezeta, by Sèyfu Yohannès for Common's The Game, suddenly 35-year-old Ethiopian music seems like the hot sound of the moment.
The 23 volumes in the Ethiopiques series can make it difficult to sort out -- which is where this double-disc sampler comes in. The 28-track overview makes an excellent introduction. If you've seen Broken Flowers, you'll immediately recognize Mulatu's haunting Yèkèrmo Sèw, but that's only the beginning. The compelling voices of Mahmoud Ahmed and Alemayehu Eshete (the James Brown of Ethiopia) will win you over.