The latest release from Minyeshu Kifle Tedla showcases her broad, inventive blend of contemporary music rooted in the traditions of Ethiopia. This compelling set of songs explores Minyeshu’s past while looking forward with a dynamic ensemble that is steadfast and expansive. The blend of traditional and western instruments give Minyeshu a range of musical options to support her rich vocals and personal lyrics.
The title of the album, Daa Dee, refers to the sound of encouragement an Ethiopian mother gives her baby as they learn to take their first steps. Minyeshu draws inspiration from this idea of a newfound independence and the surging opening track, “Aynocheh” announces a band with purpose. Interlocking electric guitar and bass mix with horns and a driving, percussive beat to create an instantly impressive tension, utilizing the Anchi Hoye scale to ease and strengthen this love song.
“Hailo Gaja” is about having fun and dancing and the South Ethiopian style of this piece really comes to life after the opening, delicate verses. The masenqo adds a moving melody to the first part of the song, harmonizing with Minyeshu’s vocals. The heavy groove that takes over the remainder of the piece is striking and bridges two seemingly different parts in a brilliant arrangement.
Strings, bass, piano and percussion guide the reflective, slow “Yetal.” Minyeshu sings a beautiful tizita about looking for home in a new country. Her vocal range takes center stage and her upper register brings out the tender plea of the song. “Yeselam Ayer” features powerful drumming with terrific interplay between the bass, electric guitar and masenqo. The pulsing band adds organ for great texture in this track about longing for peace, inspired by the North Ethiopian style Tgrigna.
The title track, “Daa Dee” is another striking tizita with Minyeshu singing about motherhood over a nice arrangement with piano, bass, vibraphone, masenqo and strings. The repeated eshurururu is the way Ethiopian mothers sing their babies to sleep. Minyeshu’s bright and tender vocals grab the listener’s attention from start to finish.
Popping guitar, bold horns and solid vocal harmonies fuel “Wolayta,” a song about the Wolayta ethnic group in southern Ethiopia. The electric bass playing of Guy Wanzambi is like glue, sticking to every surface of this infectious groove in the Bati scale. Swinging bass, guitar, organ, horns and masenqo join the pounding drums of “Enchet Lekema,” a song about the women who collect wood for a living around the world. Piano and strings join the ensemble later to build the song up with the horns serving as a fine exclamation featuring a sax solo towards the end.
“Temesgen” is a funky track with staccato horns and percussive, rhythmic guitar phrasing. This uptempo piece has a bit of a rocking feel during the choruses as Minyeshu sings her praises to God with some heavy electric piano adding support. The meditative “Yachi Elet” reflects on the Ethiopian lives lost to senseless violence. Masenqo, bass, harp, piano, sax and the washint flute add a celestial vibe to the track with passionate vocals from Minyeshu.
The CD closes with the fun “Anteneh,” a song about reuniting with a lost love. The fantastic horn arrangement is courtesy of Minyeshu and her co-arranger on the record, keyboardist and drummer Erick van de Lest. The trombone adds a laid back feel to this slinky groove. The track exudes joy and the group takes their final bow with confidence.
Minyeshu’s exciting blend of Ethiopian music fills Daa Dee with vibrant compositions that feel alive thanks to the diversity of her ensemble. These musicians support her with grace as she tells stories and shares emotions. This record reveals the depth of Minyeshu’s songwriting and vocal talents. She has made a powerful statement with this remarkable release. - Alex Brown
You can hear some tracks from Daa Dee on Alex Brown's radio show, Splinters and Candy and on RootsWorld Radio.
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