Hailu Mergia and the Walias - Tche Belew

(Kaifa Records, 1977 - Awesome Tapes From Africa, 2014)

 “Dozens of cherished recordings were made during the legendary “golden age” of Ethiopian music, an era stretching from the early 1960’s through the mid-1970’s. Less-discussed are the songs made in the aftermath of the 1974 revolution that toppled Emperor Hailu Selassie I.

 While the oppressive and often brutal, Socialism-inspired Derg government (1974-1987) had a firm grip on Ethiopians following the revolution, Walias organized their own contracts and eschewed government patronage. Unlike the celebrated bands of the run-up to Selassie’s removal the Wailas developed fame on their own terms and maintained control of their instruments and performances. They played the blues-, funk- and soul-informed tunes Mergia was writing and arranging.

 Influenced in large part by Jimmy Smith, Mergia and the Walias merged the popular international sounds available in Ethiopia at the time with the traditional tunes that formed the foundation of most musicians’ repertoires. But for this LP, instead of playing the role of backing band, Mergia wanted four of his bandmates to contribute arrangements, so that the album would capture a spectrum of sounds with the instruments and groove positioned out front.

 Decades later, Hailu Mergia was surprised to see the album fetching more than $4,000 at online auctions. The Walias had recorded the most famous and wide-reaching of all Ethiopian tunes from that era, “Musicawi Silt,” which was composed by the band's pianist Girma Beyene. Covered by bands from all over the world, “Musicawi Silt” and the rest of this long-awaited reissue have lived on among record collectors and older Ethiopians to this day. Now everyone has the chance to listen again—or for the first time—to this timeless pillar of Ethiopian popular music.” from the artists’ Bandcamp