Éthiopiques is a series of compact discs featuring Ethiopian and Eritrean singers and musicians. Many of the CDs compile various singles and albums that Amha Records, Kaifa Records and Philips-Ethiopia released during the 1960s and 1970s in Ethiopia. Prominent singers and musicians from this era appearing on Éthiopiques releases include Alemayehu Eshete, Asnaketch Worku, Mahmoud Ahmed, Mulatu Astatke and Tilahun Gessesse.
In the late 50s, early 6os it was a time of the Peace Corps Volunteers. There were several thousand who come into Ethiopia. Those youngsters brought with them their records, their guitars, their long hair, their bell-bottom trousers, many things like this.
And there was another phenomenon. The Americans had a military base in Asmara. This military base had everything: clubs, bars, its own radio, its own TV. They used to receive weekly all the charts from America: from Frank Sinatra to John Coltrane, from country music to James Brown.
Through this radio, all the musicians based in Asmara and around could benefit from these influences, which they’d bring later to Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia.
Many GIs, many young American militaries were musicians, and they played either in the military base, or downtown in the nightclubs of Asmara. So, on one hand, the Peace Corps volunteers, on the other hand, this American military base, well-equipped in all types of Western music, up-to-date, plus the travelers, the Ethiopians who went abroad bringing back records.
All of this used to feed the young Ethiopian musicians of the time. But again, in spite of this copying of American songs, musicians mostly developed something with a deep Ethiopian blend.
- FRANCIS FALCETO
Ge’ez script is used as an alphabet for several languages of Ethiopia and Eritrea including Amharic, the official working language of the Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.
Amharic introduced by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in the middle ages. Ge’ez is written from left to right, unlike Hebrew or Arabic. The letterforms of Ge’ez are distinct as vowels are “written” by adding strokes to the consonant following somewhat regular patterns.
The record label was started by “Philips Phonographische Industrie” in June 1950 when it began issuing classical recordings. Recordings were also made with popular artists of various nationalities and with classical artists from Germany, France and the Netherlands.
Launched under the slogan “Records of the Century” (referring to Philips Industries’ UK Head Office at Century House, W1), the first releases in Britain appeared at the beginning of January 1953 on 10” 78 rpm discs, with LPs appearing