Through Francois Falcetto's series Ethiopiques, many Westerners have discovered the transfixing beauty of '70s Ethiopian fusion.
Record collectors of the hip-hop generation first discovered the music of Ethiopia's Mulatu Astatke in the early 1990s. At that time, dealers at the legendary Roosevelt Hotel Record Convention in Manhattan peddled copies of Mulatu of Ethiopia, released on the small Worthy imprint, for princely sums due to its then-unknown drum break, prime meat for sampling. Those of us entranced by the otherworldly sounds searched in vain for other albums that sounded like this masterpiece. Until, that is, Francis Falceto released Ethiopiques 4, a compilation of the two supremely rare albums Astatke released on the Ethiopian Amha label.
Through Falceto's series, Jim Jarmusch's film Broken Flowers (built around Astatke's Amha recordings) and Astatke's recent live appearances, many Westerners previously unfamiliar with the transfixing beauty of '70s Ethiopian fusion have opened their ears. But we're still waiting for someone to compile releases from the small Kaifa label and Phillips' Ethiopian subsidiary. A few are included here, in the hopes that someone goes back and negotiates the release of these lovely songs.