Addis Acoustic Project has been resurrecting the hits of the 50s and 60s and bringing them up to date with arrangements which blend East African, Afro-Cuban and Brazilian elements.

By Megan Iacobini |

Since the 1990s, when French music enthusiast Francis Falceto rediscovered and collected hundreds of previously little-known tracks into the Éthiopiques series, Ethio-Jazz has enjoyed a new-found global popularity well beyond the regular world music crowd. As a fashionable Roman socialite remarks during a party scene in Paolo Sorrentino‘s film The Great Beauty, it is only a small exaggeration to claim that “Ethiopian jazz is the only kind worth listening to these days”.

Addis Acoustic ProjectFrom Mulatu Astatke’s tunes being used on Jim Jarmush’s Broken Flowers, to Seifu Yohannes ‘Tezeta’ being sampled by The Game on 2007’s Common, the sounds of Addis’ ‘swinging 60’s’ continue to resound with Ethiopian and international audiences alike. But even before the unusual tonalities of Ethiopian music fused with the sounds of brass-oriented orchestras and American jazz to set the scene for the ‘Golden Era’, Ethiopia’s popular music was a vibrant blend of sounds, in which acoustic instruments were weaved together to create evocative and instantly captivating melodies.

Recognizing the artistic value of these, Addis Acoustic Project has been resurrecting the hits of the 50s and 60s and bringing them up to date with arrangements which blend East African, Afro-Cuban and Brazilian elements.

Addis Acoustic Project ©OntheGround/Flickr

“The concept of the project is to capture and preserve the instrumentation of those days, but giving it a new twist”, says Girum Mezmur, the founder of the group. At once traditional but fresh-sounding and catchy, Addis Acoustic Project perform every Friday night in Coffee House – one of Addis’s oldest jazz houses – to a crowd which spans different generations of Ethiopians and expats. “Older people enjoy our music because we have stayed true enough to the original melodies for them to be recognizable” says Girum. At the same time, the jazzy arrangements, Latin guitar solos and tight percussions create an intoxicating, meandering groove, which immediately grabs a hold of listeners of any age.

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