By Mitch Chapman |

The 11-piece Boston-based music group Debo Band takes inspiration from popular music found in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during the 1960s and 1970s, and plays on the international circuit, according to National Public Radio (NPR). During these decades, there was a brief period of cultural freedom in Ethiopia, in which local music fused with the funk and soul genres.

“Debo Band is as much orchestra as a dance band,” NPR’s Banning Eyre said. “Its brass section can rally with Tower of Power force and polish, and lock into grooving hooks worthy of Nigerian Afrobeat. But the distinctive scales and harmonies are unmistakably Ethiopian.”

Debo Band released their first album in 2012, titled simply “Debo Band,” to wide acclaim.

“The band acquits itself amazingly well, mixing in a few originals with a well-chosen selection of Golden Age songs, folk tunes, and Azmari troubadour songs,” Joe Tangari of said of their album. “They don’t limit themselves to a faithful homage to the music. Ethiopian music’s reliance on pentatonic scales and modes makes it harmonically compatible with a wide array of other folk music, and even if you’ve spent hours listening to Mulatu Astatke and Alemayehu Eshete, you’ll hear plenty of fresh ideas here, as the band spikes its arrangements with hints of Romany brass and even Celtic melody.”

The band is set to play in Club B-10, a venue with cabaret-style seating that has featured artists such as Birds of Chicago, Jim Shaw, Plume Giant, Jason Walker, and many more. This Tuesday, the venue hosted artist Nick Cave, who, later this year will transform MoCA’s Building 5 into his “most ambitious exhibition to date,” according to a statement released by MASS MoCA.  Cave is known for “dazzling, immersive environment provoking vital exchanges about class, race, identity, and guns.” For those who attended the Nick Cave talk, Debo Band is an excellent follow-up.

“Almost no band on the international circuit plays this style of music, and it’s a potent niche,” Eyre concluded. “But too much fidelity to a 40-year-old pop style can be limiting. If this album leans more toward reverence than revolution, that’s appropriate for Debo Band’s first outing. Given their energy and talent, these musicians have room to grow, and there’s no telling where they’ll take their magnificent sound next.”

One place they’ll take it is MASS MoCA’s Club B-10, Saturday night at 8 p.m. Admission is $10 for students, $16 advance, $22 the day of. MASS MoCA encourages people to come early if they want a seat; workers will clear a space for people to dance to the music, and seating might be scarce. According to MoCA, the performance comes in conjunction with three new exhibitions (“Alex Da Corte: Free Roses,” “Sarah Crowner: Beetle in the Leaves,” and “The Space Between”), whose opening reception will be held at 5 p.m. the same day. A full bar and dining services will be available before and during the show.

Source: The Beacon MCLA
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