Mulatu Astatke has been at the forefront of the fusion between jazz and Ethiopian pop music since the ‘60s. He’s a talented composer, arranger, and player whose work blends African rhythms, textures, and vocals with Western grooves and horn arrangements. The best of his early work is collected on the classic Ethiopiques 4 compilation, but Astatke hasn't been content to rest on his laurels. Recording more recently with London’s Heliocentrics and Boston’s Either/Orchestra and providing music for the soundtrack to the 2005 film Broken Flowers, he now returns with his augmented working band called Steps Ahead for a set that captures all the beauty, mystery, and groove that makes his music so magical. Those seeking something exotic will find it on “Motherland Abay,” but the meat of the matter is in the North African–tinged “Surma,” the Afro-funk-ish “Gamo," and the hard-grooving “Azmari” (the remix is particularly good). Up to Astatke’s usual high standards, Sketches of Ethiopia will work for newbies and fans alike.
Surma (feat. Fatoumata Diawara)
Surma (Extended Version) [feat. Fatoumata Diawara] [Bonus Track]