Various Artists

The Rough Guide to the Music of Ethiopia [2012]

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People really began discovering vintage Ethiopian music with the superb Ethiopiques series, which showed just how varied and soulful the scene was in Ethiopia during the 1970s. It's arguable that it's just as vibrant these days, as this excellent compilation shows. There are some international collaborations from Dub Colossus and Invisible System (who are given an entire bonus album with this disc and are well worth hearing, managing to be sonically adventurous, incorporating many elements, including dub, into their sound, without losing the essential Ethio-centric core of the music), but the focus is on the homegrown. There's still soul, from Mahmoud Ahmed, then the strangeness of Krar Collective, who've been garnering widespread praise, and it's easy to understand why. Jazz has long been part of the spectrum and the glorious Samuel Yirga offers plenty here. The overall variety of the disc makes it a joy, an excellent snapshot of a country's music, and an indispensable primer. Add in cult favorites the Ex on one cut and you have a real winner.

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