April 27, 2016

Gabriella Ghermandi | Ethiopia: Celebrating Emperor Tewodros II

ARTIST: Gabriella Ghermandi
TITLE: Ethiopia: Celebrating Emperor Tewodros II
Gabriella Ghermandi is an Italian-Ethiopian singer who’s probably better known as a fiction writer and a performer of oral narratives which frequently incorporate music. This is her first album, and it’s just stunning. Ghermandi wrote and arranged all of the tracks, collaborating with Ethiopian composer Aklilu Zewdie and two sets of musicians in what she calls the Atse Tewodros Project: the Bari-based Reunion Platz jazz trio led by pianist Michele Giuliani, and members of the Ethio Color Band, a group of young musicians from Addis Ababa’s Fendika cultural club (some of whom played at the Richmond Folk Festival in 2012) playing traditional instruments like krar (a harp-like lyre), masenqo (one-string fiddle) and washint (end-blown flute). The music, based on classic Ethiopian pentatonic scales, is stately and quite beautiful; Ghermandi’s voice is intimate and direct. They’re making their own variant of jazz-meets-Azmari folk music, closely related to Mulatu Astatke’s venerable Ethio-jazz and to the recent Qwanqwa project. This is one of the most original, rooted and compelling recordings I’ve heard recently. Kudos to all involved.
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