Mulatu Astatke and the Ethio-jazz sound

Seen Broken Flowers? You’ve probably heard some of Mulatu Astatke’s music. Ethiopian composer and arranger (beautiful on vibrafone) he’s the don of dons when it comes to Ethio-jazz. He trained and lived mainly in the US, but bought back a lot of influences – Latin and so on – to the local scene in the early 70s when he moved back home to Ethiopia. The Ethio-jazz scene funked and rocked until 1975-7, when the Derg military junta replaced Haile Selassie I and chased the musicians out of the country. Only a few bods really remembered the Ethio-jazz scene – it stopped being made.

That was pretty much it for Ethio-jazz until the 90s, when record collectors suddenly picked up on it. Astatke was put on an Ethiopiques compilation in 1998, and then in 2005 was used as main soundtrack for Jim Jarmusch’s film, Broken Flowers (Bill Murray etc etc). Astatke is still going, I think. If he is, I’d love to see him. His music creates such a lovely warm mood, sort of chaotic and yet muted, discordant and perfect.

Thinking of Broken Flowers always makes me want to wear tracksuits.

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