Éthiopiques 14: Negus of Ethiopian Sax
Unlike many of his Ethio Jazz contemporaries, sax sorcerer Gétatchèw Mèkurya didn’t seek to hybridize western and Ethiopian sounds; rather, his music was deeply rooted in Ethiopian folklore and tradition, a characteristic he’d highlight by wearing traditional warrior attire onstage. He began playing traditional instruments like the masenqo and krar as a child, and later played with several government-sponsored orchestras in Addis Ababa. But it’s his unique idea of transposing shellela warrior chants to his tenor saxophone that earned him a place in Ethiopia’s musical history. His vision first took shape on Negus of Ethiopian Sax, originally released in 1970: across the record, Mèkurya’s tenor saxophone bellows and shrieks over a bed of electric organ, bass, and drums, with enough expressive force to rouse the warrior spirits.