Terp Rec. The Legendary Bahru Kegne (1929-2000) (ETH,'88-96,re.2013)***°
-In Memory of Ethiopian greatest Azmari-
(the cassette years 1988-1996)
That this song music, which is presented here, is being called 'trance music', this does not yet fully describe or even explain the content of the music. There is of course a repetitive aspect in it, from which I am not always sure to which purpose it is meant. On the first track I get the impression of an almost shamanic singing, so there the hypnotic trance effect is strongest. The rhythm is driven by the Ethiopian violin to keep up that hypnotic rhythm while words are being repeated so that they themselves become music. Very silently keyboards are recorded to it, a bit further into the background and with equally silently added rhythm-box rhythms, so silently that they only appear as subtle textures. A few other tracks have Ethiopian sax solos to accompany the music, where Bahru’s voice has something more electrified as if singing through a megaphone, which suits the music/those tracks well. Other tracks have a bit more clearly the keyboards on them, two times with more humpapa-rhythms, more celebrative. On the fifth track we can also heat some girls add responding voices. The brighter songs still have a nice emotionality too, a form of empathic voice, while at the same time these tracks have less of the trance association too, which again leaves us with the question of the directional purposes of the music. Some of such tracks just seem to stop abruptly too. At the last track, as one of the tracks where I had that impression, I heard that the repetitive keyboard theme improvisations showed something clever too. I just wonder how this must have sounded if it would have given a bit more attention at times, while this section hardly comes to the fore.
What is also important is what really is an Azmari, something which the booklet explains us a bit better as well. They are like an entity of people at the edge of every society, just like there used to be the old druid minstrels in ancient European history, who were a group who also had their own secret language, or also a bit like the role of minstrels in the medieval times. The liner notes say they are “the combination of a troubadour, minstrel and a jester, wandering singer, poet and joker”. Such voices express what is living in society, commenting about nearly every aspect of life, being able to react directly on anything that happens in the audience, teasing the moment, making it worse shortly but then solve it with a smile. Like a real Azmari, Bahru Kegne played in places like the court (for Haile Selassie) as well as in drinking houses, or at any occasion in any culture or religion: Azmari are not bound. Their sort of joking (with reality) is part of Ethiopian culture, while the aspect of the joker cannot always be appreciated equally much in certain parts or in certain moments in society, especially not let's say when their shadows are large, Bahru Kegne always managed to survive, together with this tradition.
Perhaps we cannot always immediatly fully grasp all turns and relations that are being played with in the music. Some of the contexts we must still be able to imagine spontaneously. Bahru’s voice at least is able to get you into the mood, together with his violin. Some other instruments support entirely that.
Included with the release is a 44-page booklet with extended biographic notes, photographs and the translation of lyrics to guide us further. The recordings were taken from his cassette repertoire (he recorded around 10 tapes).