08/09/2018: “Tezeta” by Mulatu Astatke

“Tezeta” means “Nostalgia” in Amharic, the main language in Ethiopia. This song evokes that feeling incredibly well.

The track takes its name from  traditional Ethiopian songs that are nostalgic ballads; maybe the closest equivalent in the English speaking world is the idea of the Blues from America, as in “having the blues”. The Blues is quite a nostalgic genre too.

Mulatu Astatke is the creator of Ethio-Jazz, a rich sub-genre of Jazz music that is influenced by Ethiopia’s existing musical styles.

I couldn’t say exactly what it is that defines the genre, but if you listen to any of the excellent Ethiopiques compilation discs, there’s a distinct sound that connects the songs.

“Tezeta” revolves around the mournful horns, which play an emotional slow riff, and the piano chords, which provide a sombre backdrop. The classic Jazz bass and drums add the finishing touches and bake in the slow, sober tone of the song.

The track is from the 1972 compilation Ethiopian Modern Instrumental Hits, but is also on 1998’s Ethiopiques 4 compilation, which I highly recommend.


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