Friday, July 13, 2012

Debo Band live

The Debo Band

Grupo Fantasma

So I went to see the Debo Band and Grupo Fantasma last night and it was really, really fun. I will have a write-up later at Blurt (just finished writing it), but for now, here are a couple of photos and my review of the Debo Band's self-titled first album.

Debo Band
Debo Band
(Sub Pop/Next Ambience)

The Debo Band, with its eleven members and full, big band brass and reed sound, digs into "Akale Wube," a traditional Ethiopian folk song made famous by the great saxophonist (and sometime Ex collaborator) Getatchew Mekurya. Like Mekurya, the Debo Band takes a certain amount of liberty with the tune, underlining its swaggering funk rhythms with a decidedly not-Ethiopian sousaphone, executing its crazy, keening flourishes with a Celtic-leaning electric violin. Like bandleader Danny Mekonnen, born in the Sudan to Ethiopian parents, resident of North Dakota, Texas and, recently, Boston, a frequent visitor to East Africa, these songs are well-travelled and not wholly anchored geographically. Yes, they draw from the Golden Age of Ethiopian jazz - the Haile Sellassie-sponsored 1960s and 1970s heyday chronicled in Buda Music's Ethiopiques series - but no, we are not talking about museum quality reproduction. The Debo Band is a live band in every sense of the word, and even here, on record, you can hear them creating on the fly, bending well-loved tunes into new shapes, and injecting everything from Irish folk to East European oompah brass into the slink and strut of their materials.


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