Ethiopia: Three Chordophone Traditions

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Unesco
ALBUM TITLE: UNESCO collection
CATALOGUE NO: D 8074 (distr. Auvidis/Harmonia Mundi)

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The rest of the issues here sample a series of UNESCO collections made over several decades. Widest in their appeal will be the African issues. As you follow the different sizes and shapes of lyre around Ethiopia and Sudan, their tone running from sombre, reflective buzz to energetic strumming, there’s hardly a drum in earshot.

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The Ethiopian disc includes urbane, aristocratic music with bägänna (lyre), softly and persuasively sung by Alemu Agar, and continues with more exuberant rural performances. You can catch a village weaver’s theatrical, fancifully characterised lovers – he sings to boost his cloth sales – and some bellowing vocals over sophisticated bowing on the spike fiddle.