. issue VII : v .
. artist : various artists .
. album : the rough guide to the music of ethiopia .
. year : 2012 .
. label : world music network .
. grade : b plus .
Buda Musique’s Ethiopiques series (27 volumes and counting) is without a doubt the gold standard of Ethiopian music reissues. What can the Rough Guide folks add to justify a release like this one? Plenty, as it turns out. The emphasis here is on more recent recordings, very much in the spirit of the now-classics from the late 60’s through 1975, but each with a modern or outside touch. For example, “Guragigna” and “Gue” are two very different urbanized takes (the former from London, the latter from Addis Ababa) on the same traditional Gurage melody, “Musicawi Silt” puts an Ethio-jazz great in front of a punk band with brilliant results, and “Mela Mela” is a unique take on the azmari tradition. Yes, there are a few easy-to-find Ethiopiques re-reissues (“Ney-Ney Weleba” is a funky favorite by Alemayehu Eshete, the Ethiopian James Brown) that help put the newer material in context. On the other hand, there are four very worthwhile tracks from hard-to-get Terp Records in the Netherlands, who are putting out what I think is the best modern Ethiopian music today. All in all, it’s a very worthwhile project.