Monday, September 19, 2005

beta hears more ethiopiques than reggaeton

Mulatu Astatke "Tezeta"
Mahmoud Ahmed "Kulun Mankwalesh"
Alemu Aga "Yeemebetatchen Selamta"

It's strange to try and explain that thonka-thunk sound of reggaeton to all my Texan visitors. I find it incredibly difficult to fathom that down south, they haven't heard that beat, that telltale clave and snare that pounds through The City at all hours. Especially in SA, where you can escape neither tejano nor conjunto nor salsa nor rancheros nor whatever strand of Latin rhythm is overtaking the state, much like fire ants and killer bees and cucarachas. It seems less likely that border country hasn't been hit by reggaeton and just more likely that my friends don't listen to the radio, much less the Latino stations. Guess they're too busy with the Walkmen and Brian Jonestown Massacre. Sigh.

But how could they avoid it up here? Who knows, but I do know that nearly everywhere we went, they seemed to be piping in various volumes of the Ethiopiques. Eating dinner at Mama's, it was from Volume Four, featuring the big band sounds of Mulatu Astatke. And while waiting for the Arcade Fire to come on, out blared Mahmoud Ahmed through the park, one of my favorites of the series. Sounded phenomenal over the PA, too.

No one seems to have much love for Alemu Aga though and his King David harp. Even the eMusic Dozen has no mention of it. Quite honestly, his music is about the closest thing I have found to late period Arthur Russell, all murmur and holy buzz. How great would this sound coming out of a tricked-out Navigator with chrome rims?


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