Asnakech

08/11/18ATFA Readies Pivotal Release By Late Ethiopian Singer & Krar Player Asnakech Worku

Brian Shimkovitz's Awesome Tapes From Africa (ATFA) imprint is set to release another stunner on November 16th. This time the musical protagonist is the late Ethiopian musician, actress, dancer and cultural icon Asnakech. As stated in the comprehensive liner notes"there is perhaps no woman more cherished in modern Ethiopian history than Asnakech Worku, [who] inspired and challenged society for decades, until her death in 2011. From her beginnings as Ethiopia's first theater actress in 1952 to her acclaimed film appearances to her days as a club owner-turned-master musician, [Asnakech] earned endless accolades across the artistic spectrum." She also became internationally known for her mastery of the krar, or six-stringed harp, "one of the oldest and most iconic traditional instruments in Ethiopia and Eritrea." 

Our first reaction to these distant, captivating and weirdly entrancing compositions was one of surprise. But as we listened, we became increasingly enthralled. As a matter of fact, this particular recording involves none other than legendary Ethiopian keyboardist and bandleader Hailu Mergia (check out his ATFA-reissued album "Lala Belu"): "In 1975, [Hailu] got a call from the owner of Misratch Music Shop to do a recording with Asnakech and he went for it. This recording is a nearly-forgotten artifact of the remarkable icon’s singular legacy, remastered and available outside Ethiopia for the first time. It also provides a rare glimpse into Mergia’s work as a arranger-sideman in the Addis Ababa music scene." 

Needless to say, Asnakech herself as well as their collaboration left a lasting impression on Hailu Mergia, who shares his personal admiration and adds his "Memories of Asnakech" to the release's liner notes, which we highly recommend you read. This quote here concerns the actual songs on the release: "Some of the songs are traditional, some are her compositions. You can listen to songs like these at home with family, while sitting or reading, in the after-hours at the club, while you’re washing the dishes. When you’re driving, a bunch of people listen while driving. It depends what time when you want to listen. Some people they listen to this kind of love music when they have a good relationship, somebody passed away or somebody stopped dating each other and have emotional flashbacks to what happened in their lives."

You can stream/buy the full release on Bandcamp. There you will also find more in-depth biographical information as well a track by track description. Thank you ATFA and thank you Asnakech.

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom