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World Music CD Reviews Reggae & Caribbean

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Nazarenes
Songs Of Life
Heartbeat

By Nils Jacobson

Published September 23, 2005

There’s something oddly and irresistibly symmetric about the very existence of Nazarenes, an Ethiopian roots reggae duo comprised of brothers Medhane and Noah Tewolde. Hailing as they do from the primeval Rastafarian homeland, Nazarenes come preloaded with mystic energy and expectation. After all, Ethiopia and its one-time emperor, Haile Selassie, have been revered by the Jamaican Rasta movement almost as much as Jah glory itself. But the brothers Tewolde sing in English, not Amharic, and there’s more than a hint of Motown in their delivery; and their music sounds far more like Kingston or London than Addis Ababa. Those disclaimers out of the way, Songs Of Life (their second recording and U.S. debut) is an impeccably produced, start-to-finish solid collection with all the essential roots reggae ingredients: message, movement, and undulating grooves. Like a lot of African reggae, there’s a sense of adopted, not endowed identity, but themes of righteousness, unity, peace and freedom (not to mention our good friend Mary Jane) will likely resonate with the body public until the dawn of revelation itself.

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