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Dub Colossus

Music lovers who enjoy sounds of the African continent often hit a wall when trying to delve accurately into Ethiopian compositions. Much of it dates back to Abyssinian tribal music from the early part of the 20th Century that, when fused with American jazz and rock influences of the '60s and '70s, gets blurry. Despite this, English reggae producer Nick Page recently decided to explore a concept album with some of Ethiopia's most popular contemporary artists. Using his latest alias, Dub Colossus, Page (AKA Count Dubulah) traveled to the country's capital, Addis Ababa, to find the hottest sounds of the moment, then underscored them with flashes of Jamaican dub. It's a novel idea considering Ethiopia's folkloric role within Rastafarianism, and the album's first track, "Azmari Dub," is a ready-made dancehall banger. With spooky echoes and high-pitched vocals from Ethiopian singer Sintayehu Zenebe, any global reggae DJ who sleeps on this track is losing out. Where this project really shines is on some of the jazzier, Ethiopique-sounding material in the album's second half. Tracks like "Mercato Music" show off stellar saxophone playing as well as piano work. It's here that the dub subsides, and Page is smart enough not to overproduce things. From a knob-tweaker's standpoint, In a Town Called Addis should make late dub pioneers such as King Tubby and Mikey Dread smile from the heavens.

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Jonathan Cunningham

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