This is the first ever reissue of Admas’ Sons of Ethiopia, a holy grail of epic proportions – it’s such a futuristic sounding album of fusion and roots, wonderfully channeled through the musicans who had left Ethiopia for America and recorded this privately pressed album in Washington DC in 1984.
Admas were not musicians from the ‘golden age’ of Ethiopian music and were children of the Derg time (officially the Provisional Military Government of Socialist), when the nation was ruled by the Marxist-Leninist military junta that presided in Ethiopia during the Eritrean War of Independence, the Ethiopian Civil War and the horrific famine – all occurring between 1974 and 1987. The music is reflective, melancholic and deeply inspired – with contemporary influences such as early-80s electro, melding wonderfully with their nation’s 1960s pop sounds and jazz, such as forefathers Mulatu and Girma Beyene. It’s a wonderful album.
For Frederiksberg Records in New York – founded in 2013 by Andreas Vingaard, they’ve been specialists in reissuing rare Scandanavian jazz – this is another foray into other parts of the world, following their revive of the 1981 Bermudian disco smash Paradise – Sizzlin Hot in 2017. Andreas has impeccable taste (you can hear more below) and he does and amazing job with the sound and packaging (ignore these crackly clips, but you have to hear this! Personal fave is ‘Kalatashe Waga’ below – Ed.).
WTM also interviewed Andreas way back in 2015 (scroll down the label section – Ed.)
Sons of Ethiopia is one of the few recordings to be produced outside Ethiopia in the early 1980s and is a key example of the Washington DC exile scene. The core members of Admas – Tewodros ‘Teddy’ Aklilu, Henock Temesgen, and Abegasu Shiota – had previously played in a group called Gasha. Admas was born from Gasha as a more experimental outlet. For the community of Ethiopian exiles, who had fled the brutality of the Derg that had deposed Haile Selassie, the album was a new sound. It had evolved from the state-sponsored neighbourhood bands and the remaining hotel groups of a bygone Imperial world.
Having established a residency at the Red Sea restaurant in the early 1980s, the Admas players were steeped in the polyglot musical culture of the American capital. The diverse sonic influences of Washington DC filtered into the music, making the album a radically modern work of Ethiopian fusion.
Sons of Ethiopia is distinct for its freedom and imagination, with the band owning every part of the production process. Admas performed week in, week out, for crowds of fellow Ethiopians – many of whom had lost family and friends to the Derg – this is music of exile and channels this loss, longing and hope.
“It is at once imbued with the melancholy and nostalgia so typical of Ethiopian song,” Andreas says. “And at the same time, is a joyful work of synthesis and experiment with deep roots. Mulatu, Girma Beyene and their peers in 1960s Addis Ababa had created an Ethiopian pop sound by using rhythms from Latin music, soul and jazz. Admas threw their net wider still, adding highlife, electro, go-go, samba, and roots reggae to the mix.
“Sons of Ethiopia has the fresh sound of youth, freedom and imagination. It’s a different expression of Ethiopian music while still honoring Mulatu, Girma Beyene, Hailu Mergia and others. I think you’ll find it sounds amazingly fresh today.”
Fully licensed from Admas, the album includes restored sound and art. As well as an extensively researched booklet featuring unseen photographs and interviews with the band.
It’s out on July 27th – find out more at the label’s Bandcamp.
Here are some other choice cuts from the label:
A choice cut from off their second album reissue, Carsten Meinert Kvartet’s To You album: