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World Music CD Reviews Africa

ETHIOPIQUES VOLUME 20: EITHER/ORCHESTRA: LIVE IN ADDIS

By Bruce Miller
Published June 27, 2006

Buda

The Ethiopiques series has made the world a more enlightened place by shining much needed light on the East African nation’s ’70s heyday. The majority of what’s bee released so far, everything from heaping helpings of Western-influenced soul, solo krar players and the mesmerizing Harp of King David found on disc #11, has been indispensable. Unfortunately, the same can’t quite be said for this double set, recorded in Addis Ababa at last year’s Ethiopian music festival. While this Boston-based horn and percussion-driven ensemble has the chops, and clearly loves the tunes, it also robs the music of its inherent Ethiopian-ness: the eerie, minor key groove that comes from being a boat ride away from what we know as the Middle East. Instead, once the Either/Orchestra dispenses with melody, the music degenerates into a ham-fisted fusion that has nothing to do with Ethiopia and everything to do with late-20th century jazz excess. Brief appearances by classic-era musicians such as Bahta Gebre-Heywet and sax monster Getachew Mekurya bring a slight boost, but when there are 19 other volumes of Ethiopiques to choose from, this disc gives further proof that quantity can often undermine quality.