Addis Calling: Reggae from Ethiopia

June 14, 2010

Words by Eddie STATS Houghton

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The good people at Addis Tunes–a great resource for EthioJazz and afrofunk of all stripes–just put out the word on a new album project aptly titled Ethiopia Calling from Sydney Salmon and the Imperial Majestic reggae band. As the name suggests, Syd is a Kingston native and Twelve Tribes rasta who in 2001 relocated (or repatriated, depending how you look at it) to Ethiopia, where he is currenlty based, making music and raising funds for the Jamaican Rastafarian Development Community in Shashamane land. The end result is a tour de force of solid and soulful one drop in the vein of Luciano or Morgan Heritage but colored by the cadences of Ethiopia on tracks like “Selassie Yenefesewassie,” “Chika” and “Egziabher Yemesgen.”


To me this feels like one small stirring of a general back-to-Africa vibe that’s been afoot lately, what with Uncle Sam’s Army invading South Africa for the World Cup, Sizzla’s recent move to Zimbabwe and the general upward trajectory of some African economies in spite of the global slump. But if you’re specifically looking for more signals on the Black Star line that connects Jamaica to Ethiopia you can check the Dub Colussus project A Town Called Addis which dropped on the Real World label about two years back. It’s centered around sessions of Nick Page recording with a variety of local Addis cats doing their thing in the traditional, Azmari and EthioJazz styles–and then dubbing the fuck out of them. Once you get over the fact that digital effects will never quite recreate the analog innovation of 70s dub, this is a pretty unique and amazing record–and in many ways the logical conclusion of what people like Augustus Pablo and the Congos were trying to do with Jamaican music in their day. For a more immersive experience roll up some King Solomon and flip through Neville Garrick’s coffee table book while you listen. I just wish Nas & Junior Gong had done so before they recorded Distant Relatives.