A new generation of musicians is drawing inspiration from the classic recordings of Mulatu and his Ethiopian contemporaries.
YANNIS PHILIPPAKIS (FOALS)
When I first heard the Ethiopiques discs - a college friend into world music played them for me - the harmonic structures sounded really alien and fresh.The juxtaposition of Ethiopian singing and melody with the presence of a Western influence made it very accessible.
What I find most inspiring is the joy of the music. I also love the way the recordings seem pure and undoctored. The tape captures the musicians' humanity. We want to record like that.
COLE ALEXANDER (BLACK LIPS)
My stepfather works in Africa and somehow picked up a bootleg copy of one of the Ethiopiques CDs in Thailand.
What I like about a lot of those Ethiopian songs is that they sound like they were inspired by James Brown. Since he was from Georgia just like us, we thought we'd play a little cultural ping-pong by doing our version of one of their songs.
The song Hasabe by Ayalew Mesfin has this killer intro riff that I sampled and looped. We built our own version of Hasabe around that, but we couldn't get it down right in the studio, so we left it off our album. The version that appears on the Chunklet single is us jamming out the song without the loop, which worked out okay.
MALCOLM CATTO (HELIOCENTRICS)
Mulatu's recordings have all the ingredients I love: strong rhythms, soulfulness, grittiness, great musicianship and inspired arrangements. Plus the unusual scales and timings make for an alluring oddness to the Western ear. Ethiopia has a particularly rich musical heritage combining aspects of Arabic and African music.
The Heliocentrics were chosen to back Mulatu for his performance at Cargo in London in April. We recreated some of his earlier recordings from the Ethio Jazz LP and the Ethiopiques series and also played as the support band on the bill.
We discussed the possibility of joining forces with Mulatu for a recording project. As it happened, Quinton Scott from Strut Records, who was at the gig, had already set the wheels in motion and has now made the project a reality.