A luminary of the Ethiopiyawi Electronic, Mikael Seifu is paving the way for a new school of sonic explorers emerging out of Addis Ababa. Unlike the German rebellion against Schlager music that was Krautrock, the movement embraces traditional sounds of Ethio-Jazz and the Azmari, framing them in a brand new context that’s neither truly Westernised or African. As Seifu puts it, he’s out to achieve something that’s treated for discerning ears while managing to remain “eternally Ethiopian”. Two releases on Washington DC’s 1432 R set a precedent and, having spent several formative years studying music in New Jersey, Seifu will resume his long-running love-affair with the States on a debut for RVNG Intl.
Steering his music through deeper waters than before, Seifu opens proceedings with a warbling transmission. Introspective and transportive in equal measure, it whets the appetite nicely for a main course where the exploration between Ethiopian music and electronic innovation becomes clear in its direction. Take ‘The Solipsist’, where the delicate timbres of the Krar breathe through an intricate arrangement that’s reminiscent of Four Tet’s more abstract compositions. The vocal-led ‘Soul Manifest’ serves as a palette cleanser of sorts, a blissful symphony of harmony and texture that feels like the calm before a storm, while ‘How To Save a Life (Vector of Eternity)’ and ‘ዘላለም (Vector of Light)’ bristle with an irrepressible energy; the former’s Masenko melodies exhibiting the vivid opulence of Ethiopian music against a backdrop of soaring synth. Zelalem is just as much a celebration of the old as it is the new as Seifu and his peers continue to write another chapter in the storied history of Ethiopian music.
Zelalem is out March 4th, 2016 on RVNG Intl. Pre-order from RVNG website.