One reason some Americans claim they're not into "world music" — aside from crummy mainstream radio — is that folks either feel put off by non-English singing or think one would have to be an ethnomusicologist to appreciate it. As to the first concern, there are plenty of songs sung in English that are unintelligible ("Excuse me while I kiss this guy"), and for the second, well, a solid groove is a solid groove, regardless of national origin. Which brings us, Dear Reader, to the latest edition of the keen-o Ethiopiques collections of pop and dance music of Ethiopia. Volume 22 highlights one performer: Alemayehu Eshete, from 1972-74. In his homeland, Eshete is known as the Abyssinian Elvis because of his Elvis Presley-like cool and gyrations, both physical and vocal. The opening track, "Nèy-Nèy Weleba," is — to oversimplify — Arabic jump-blues, as it features some rich, bluesy tenor saxophone, a jaunty beat, and Eshete punctuating a Middle Eastern melody. The tunes "AAHhh!," "Tequr Gessela," and "Wètadèr Nègn" are fabulous Motown hits that never were, with Eshete coming on like Marvin Gaye (in Ethiopian lingo, natch). A lot of this sounds like some of the Tennessee via Detroit rock-steady outfits from the early '60s, making it classic soul music, albeit from another culture. Aces.
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