Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Hailu Mergia & His Classical Instrument

  • Shemonmuanay [Awesome Tapes From Africa, 2013] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Shemonmuanay [Awesome Tapes From Africa, 2013]
Informative yet silly notes to the contrary, this Ethiopian one-off, recorded in Washington in 1985, isn't "lush," "futuristic," or, please God, "psychedelic." It's spare, nostalgic, and passing strange: accordion plus Rhodes plus Moog plus drum machine with which one-man-band Mergia, a successful professional in his homeland who wasn't a fan of the genocidal Mengistu "Marxist" regime then steadily expunging Addis's nightlife, recalls and recapitulates the modal melodies of his youth. Basically it's cocktail music, but with two big differences: a tune base like no cocktail music anywhere, and the necessity of reducing music Americans now know primarily from Éthiopiques horn bands to simple pattern, momentary idiosyncrasy, and painful longing. Mergia tried music promoting in D.C. for a while. He now drives a cab there. A-