Wednesday 12 August 2020

'Sons of Ethiopia' by Admas

'Sons of Ethiopia' is the newly reissued album by Admas which finds its new home on the New York-based Frederiksberg Records.

Founded by Danish video journalist, Andreas Vingaard, the label has managed to unearth some incredible projects originally striving to celebrate unsung Scandinavian jazz, like the label's inaugural project - saxophonist Carsten Meinert Kvartet's 'To You'.  Backed by musicians including bassist Henrik Hove, pianist Ole Matthiessen and drummer Ole Streenberg, the album was recorded between 1968-69 and was created in reverence to the iconic John Coltrane before being released independently to little fanfare.  Kvartet's touching tribute is gifted to the world once again following a meeting with Vingaard who received Kavartet's blessing to house the project more than 45 years after its initial release.

A series of stunning projects have since followed ranging from the raw and grimy funk of the Scandinavian collective, Queen Eve & The Kings (reissued from a previous 2004 recording session), to the exquisite Bermudian disco and boogie sounds of Paradise ('Sizzlin Hot', originally recorded in 1981) and not forgetting the album by US multi-instrumentalist, Carlo Vinci Jr ('Piper of Dreams', originally released in 1979).

A passion for Scandinavian jazz may have served as the initial springboard for the label but Frederiksberg Records have become purveyors of thrilling projects across multiple genres on a global scale.  Which takes us to their fantastic new project, 'Sons of Ethiopia'.

Comprised of band members Tewodros ‘Teddy’ Aklilu, Henock Temesgen and Abegasu Shiota, the album was recorded in Washington, DC, in 1984 by young, exiled musicians who fled Ethiopia during the Derg regime before ultimately taking up home in the US.  'Sons of Ethiopia' is indicative of a mindset at that time - with Admas members initially attached to Gasha, a band rooted in a more traditional Ethiopian aesthetic, Admas became the opportunity to stretch those constrictions incorporating more Western influences into their compositions resulting in music that was potentially years ahead of its time.  The seven-track album basks in this melting pot of styles and influences like the jazz of 'Tez Alegn Yetintu', the synth-heavy sounds of 'Bahta's Highlife', the bold Latin rhythms of 'Samba Shegitu' - music that sounds as inspired today as it was at its inception.

While iconic Ethiopian musicians like Mahmoud Ahmed, Hailu Mergia, Tilahoun Gessesse and Mulatu Astatke are understandably cited as legends whose work is still heralded today, Admas wholeheartedly deserve to have their innovative and groundbreaking contributions recognised as the progressive flag wavers of Ethiopian culture that they were.  'Sons of Ethiopia' is a fantastic demonstration of all the possibilities the music now had at its disposal - music born of fear and loss but filled with boundless hope for its future.

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