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World Music CD Reviews Africa

ETHIOPIQUES 19: MAHMOUD AHMED: ALEMYE

By Tom Pryor
Published September 27, 2005

Buda Musique

Just when you think that the Ethiopiques well has finally run dry, producer Francis Falceto unearths more rare recordings from Ethiopia’s short, spectacular flowering as an African pop music powerhouse in the late ’60s/early ’70s. Here he returns to the prodigious Ahma Records catalog to once again sample the work of the legendary singer/bandleader Mahmoud Ahmed, one of the key figures of modern Ethiopian music. Mahmoud’s 1975 LP, Ere mela mela, was one of the first Ethiopian albums to make a splash in the West (although it wasn’t released abroad until 1986!), and his career was one of the few to span both the golden era and Ethiopia’s infamous Derg dictatorship, which lasted from 1974 until 1991. This album, Alemye, was originally released in 1974, and features the same, swinging Ibex band as Ere mela mela. The grooves here are chugging, modal, otherworldly funk, full of throbbing bass and swirling horn riffs; with Ahmed singing his heart out like a lovelorn supplicant. The recording quality isn’t great, but it’s a minor miracle that we’re able to hear this music at all.