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Emahoy Tsegue and Maryam Guebrou: Ethiopiques 21: Ethiopia Song

The Éthiopiques series is known for high-energy pop, brass bands and jazzy instrumentals-dance music for swingin’ Addis Ababa. But the 21st volume acts like a nightcap after a night out on the town. Playing solo piano, Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou works through 16 delicate compositions that sound like a somber Claude Debussy interpreting Ethiopian music: pentatonic, modal and mostly in the middle register. The performances come from the 1960s, 1970s and 1990s, all made after Guèbrou had become a nun because her dreams to become a full-time musician were dashed by governmental interference. She made these recordings to raise money for charities, and it’s a relief she didn’t give up on music entirely after politics derailed her dreams. Emahoy is a strange, sui generis CD.

Zanzibara is the sister series to Éthiopiques, investigating Swahili popular music from the early 20th century to today.

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