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Spotlight

Bole2Harlem

By Tad Hendrickson
Published March 13, 2007
ETHIOPIA

Border crossings and fusions are commonplace in world music. As advertised, this duo creates a sound that proposes the idea that Ethiopia, instead of Manhattan, was to the south of Harlem. The project is headed up by vocalist/rapper Maki Siraj, programmer/multi-instrumentalist David “Ashagre” Schommer and vocalist Tigist Shibabaw, sister of Gigi. According to the trio’s Myspace page, the album is about creating a space where Ethiopian and African-American cultures can co-exist without diluting each other. It’s an admirable sentiment that many try to accomplish, but few are able to do it with the kind of skill exhibited here. The songs sound built from the ground up with a strong foundation of live percussion interspersed with sampled beats. Vocals and raps trade off, complementing each other instead of competing, and there is a distinct gospel element peeking through. Funky guitar and bass, as well as jazzy horns, round out the sound, sometimes approaching an Afrobeat feel but not dwelling there for long. Like so many other great bands, the project got its start at a jam session (called World Flow and held at a Moroccan-Senegalese joint called L’Orange Bleue) and grew from there, organically. As tasteful and skilled as more established mixologists like Banco De Gaia, Midival Punditz or Idan Raichel, the group released its Vol. 1 debut on the indie label Sounds Of The Mushroom (currently available through iTunes and at Amazon). Wholly modern, Bole2Harlem’s brand of “world flow” offers some fresh possibilities in music-making.