Hailu Mergia & His Classical Instrument (4 stars)

Hybrid of traditional Ethiopian melodies and blessed-out electro-jazz from the master accordionist

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Hailu Mergia & His Classical Instrument

(Awesome Tapes from Africa)

Another gem from the justifiably-named Awesome Tapes from Africa label, Hailu Mergia & His Classical Instrument is a 1985 solo effort from the leader and arranger of Ethiopian jazz and funk group Walias Band. A master accordionist, Mergia layers his 'classical instrument' over dreamy Fender Rhodes electric piano, analogue synthesiser and drum machine to create a gorgeous hybrid of traditional Ethiopian melodies and blessed-out electro-jazz.

At times, the album suggests a DIY bedroom pop take on the great Mulatu Astatke's mellow yet mysterious Ethio-jazz, with smoky tendrils of modal accordion melody curling around squelchy synth bass and rinky-dink rhythm box grooves. Recalling the cosmic beauty of Sun Ra's 'Love in Outer Space', 'Sewnetuwa' is a magical night-time reverie, with shooting star synths gently arcing across a glittering sky. In contrast, 'Belew Beduby' is a tenser affair, with a propulsive 6/8 beat and weirdly funky synth riffs.

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