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Dub Colossus Brings Reggae To Ethiopia

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Dub Colossus Brings Reggae To Ethiopia

Dub Colossus Brings Reggae To Ethiopia

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

OK. English music producer Nick Page, also known as Dub Colossus, is what you would call a reluctant traveler. It took a friend a year to convince him to visit Ethiopia. But that week-long trip turned into a two-year musical odyssey. It culminates this week with the released of an album entitled "A Town Called Addis." Critic Sarah Bardeen has a review.

SARAH BARDEEN: Jamaica and Ethiopia have long-standing cultural ties. Rastafarians believe that the late Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie was actually the second coming of the messiah. And since the 1970s, reggae musicians have celebrated Selassie and Ethiopia in song. But few musicians have thought to actually join reggae and Ethiopian music, until now.

(Soundbite of reggae music)

BARDEEN: Producer Nick Page is a dub reggae fanatic. And as a member of bands like TransGlobal Underground, he's fused different musical styles for years. But he resisted visiting Ethiopia until 2006. What he found there astonished him.

(Soundbite of reggae music)

BARDEEN: With just a week to make what were essentially urban field recordings, Page concocted a makeshift studio in a shed in Addis. His friend introduced him to a cross-section of talent. It ranged from an unknown jazz piano protege named Samuel Yorga(ph) to a rising pop star, Tsedenia Gebremarkos.

(Soundbite of reggae music)

BARDEEN: Many producers have set world music to dance beats over the years. And the result is usually predictable: a dance beat with a smattering of ethnic touches. But nothing about ''A Town Called Addis" is predictable. The two different traditions, Ethiopian music and dub reggae, bring each other to life. The warbling Ethiopian singers breathe crisp mountain air into dub's humid depths, while dub's heavy bass anchors the sometimes ethereal folk.

(Soundbite of reggae music)

BARDEEN: The combination is startling, and sometimes it sounds like it's on the verge of failing. But it doesn't. Dub reggae and Ethiopian jazz share a mysterious edge even when they take an odd detour into bossa nova. Anae Yelganatae(ph).

(Soundbite of reggae music)

BARDEEN: "A Town Called Addis" is a rare album. Originally a solo project by a lone producer, it literally took a village to create it. And you can hear the dialogue in play in every song. Dub Colossus put his name on the album but in fact, two colossi meet on "A Town Called Addis"- Jamaica's weighty reggae and Ethiopia's thousand-year folk tradition. And rather than wrestling with each other, they actually find a way to dance.

(Soundbite of reggae music)

CHADWICK: The album is "A Town Called Addis." Our reviewer is Sarah Bardeen.

BRAND: Day To Day is a production of NPR News, with contributions from Slate.com. I am Madeleine Brand.

CHADWICK: And I am Alex Chadwick.

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