Ethiopian-American singer takes inspiration from the epic African river
ByÃ‚Â Peter Holslin
Any Ethiopian person worth his weight in honey wine would know the song Ã¢â‚¬Å“Abbay Mado.Ã¢â‚¬Â A simple Ethiopian folk tune, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s about a farmer who calls to his ox from across the Blue Nile, the majestic tributary that flows into Sudan from EthiopiaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s northwestern highlands.
For Ethiopians and foreigners alike, the most well-known version of Ã¢â‚¬Å“Abbay MadoÃ¢â‚¬Â is probably the one recorded by the legendary singer Mahmoud Ahmed, appearing on his 1975 albumÃ‚Â ErÃƒÂ¨ MÃƒÂ¨la MÃƒÂ¨laÃ‚Â (later reissued for the epic Ãƒâ€°thiopiques series). In his version, Ahmed belts out the songÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s festive melody as his band lays down a horn-led funk groove thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all but guaranteed to put the listener in a trance.
In more recent years, though, another version of Ã¢â‚¬Å“Abbay MadoÃ¢â‚¬Â has gained popularity. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sung by the Ethiopian-American singer Meklit Hadero, and a light, jazzy arrangement appears on her 2010 debut album,Ã‚Â On a Day Like This…Ã‚Â Over brisk drums and stand-up bass, Hadero trades off with a trumpeter, whose low-key flourishes are fit for a quiet, rainy day.
Hadero, who lives in San Francisco, always brightens up the crowd when she plays the song live. SheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll dance with people in the audience, and Ethiopians will clap out the polyrhythms of its traditional 6/8 beat, called a Ã¢â‚¬Å“tchik-tchik-ka.Ã¢â‚¬Â Asked why she decided to sing the song, Hadero has a simple answer.
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