Debo Band raises the roof on the Ethiopian musical past, picking up where political upheaval of the 1970s and 1980s quenched the energy of one of East Africa’s most prolific, vibrant scenes. They imagine what Duke Ellington, while on his famed African tour, might have played with the Addis Ababa Police Orchestra (“Blue Awaze”). They invent the jams of the Ethiopians who served in the Korean War and brought back influences from East Asia (the catchy Okinawan song “Hiyamikachi Bushi”).
Debo Band brings these musical what-ifs to life on Ere Gobez (FPE Records; May 20, 2016), the bold, grooving follow-up to their acclaimed debut. The large ensemble is known for its fun, danceable dives into Ethiopia’s rich musical worlds — from Orthodox Christian liturgy to hot-and-sweaty club sounds.
As Debo band leader and sax player Danny Mekonnen insists, Ethiopian musical cultures are so diverse that the band could only scratch the surface even after ten years of dedicated study. “In Ethiopia, in the early 70s, you had a lot of different styles and artists and arrangers. You had such wealth. You can never stop digging; there will always be new material to introduce people to. That’s something significant. We’re digging much, much deeper. We’re still unearthing new sounds after a decade.” And these are sounds to pack the dance floor.
“…riotous energy and sinuous swing.” — NPR
“Guitar solos, massed vocals, violin and brass rush in like a Red Bulled marching band. Dance at your own risk.” — Rolling Stone
“It’s not an easy feat to pay tribute and transcend that same tribute simultaneously, but… this band manages the trick.” — Pitchfork