Jazzing up the Dub

The 1960s and 70s in Ethiopia were known for two things — the regime of Emperor Haile Selassie and the music of the government-controlled orchestras,that brought along the trend of brass bands,folk music and jazz into the country — a time referred to as the “golden age” of music.

Written by Pallavi Pundir | Published: January 23, 2012 12:45:12 am

The 1960s and 70s in Ethiopia were known for two things — the regime of Emperor Haile Selassie and the music of the government-controlled orchestras,that brought along the trend of brass bands,folk music and jazz into the country — a time referred to as the “golden age” of music. Six years ago,Nick Page,a half-Greek half-British “culturally confused” musician was inspired by this music and went to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia in search of its roots. He ended up forming a band with 12 musicians — five Ethiopians,one Jamaican,one Indian and five Britishers — creating a new genre by fusing traditional Ethiopian music with contemporary reggae,dub and jazz.

Now called Dub Colossus,the band regaled authors and visitors at the Jaipur Literature Festival on Sunday.

Created in 2006,the band’s discography journeys from reggae to traditional jazz and contemporary — almost representing the timeline of the history of music in Ethiopia. “I was fascinated with how Addis Ababa was the centre of cultural and artistic flowering,an explosion of ideas and stimulation of western music,jazz,rock and roll. And now we have this renaissance of Ethiopian music and culture,” says Page about the band,which is trying to bring back the swaying horns and traditional Ethiopian rhythms to fore.

“We take one Ethiopian note on which all Ethiopian music depends,just like Indian music. The ornamentation is different. What dazzles me is how the same note of music sounds different in different cultures,” he adds. Their line up comprises two female vocalists including Sintayehu ‘Mimi’ Zenebe,an established African pop singer,Samuel Yirga on piano,saxophonist Feleke Hailu and Teremage Woretaw,a traditional one-stringed violist,and percussionist Toby Mills,with Page on guitar.

This is the band’s maiden trip to India. “I have some experience with Indian music,such as qawwali,sarangi players and tabla players . The literature festival has also been a good learning experience,” says Page. He is slated to give another performance with Indian musicians on the last day of the Festival.

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