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Thursday 7/7: DEBO Band (Ethiopian Dance) - Extended Set!
Thursday 7/7 @ LangLab $8 at the door | Doors @ 7pm | Music @ 8pm ALL AGES | Bar open for 21+
12 and under Free | Students and Military $2 off with valid ID
“It’s not an easy feat to pay tribute and transcend that same tribute simultaneously, but… this band manages the trick.” — Pitchfork
Debo Band raises the roof on the Ethiopian musical past, picking up where political upheaval of the 1970s and 1980s quenched the energy of one of East Africa’s most prolific, vibrant scenes. They imagine what Duke Ellington, while on his famed African tour, might have played with the Addis Ababa Police Orchestra (“Blue Awaze”). They invent the jams of the Ethiopians who served in the Korean War and brought back influences from East Asia (the catchy Okinawan song “Hiyamikachi Bushi”).
Debo Band brings these musical what-ifs to life on Ere Gobez (FPE Records; May 20, 2016), the bold, grooving follow-up to their acclaimed debut. The large ensemble is known for its fun, danceable dives into Ethiopia’s rich musical worlds–from Orthodox Christian liturgy to hot-and-sweaty club sounds.
For Mekonnen and the band, it’s about more than playing with the wealth of modes, styles, and approaches born in Ethiopia. It’s about exhuming and reframing a past that had to be abandoned, but that now feels relevant to global conversations about African identities, regional politics, and the plight of refugees. That many of Ethiopia’s great artists, songwriters, and recordings were lost is part of a larger story of loss, that of flight, resettlement, and broken links in a long, vital chain of musical expression.
“My parents left everything in the middle of the night as teenagers,” recalls Mekonnen, who was born in Sudan. “You don’t take your music collection with you when you flee. You leave all that behind. We’re still trying to reconstruct the past, not simply by discovering good songs that have been forgotten, but through the interpretation process, making the songs anew. Bringing attention to the silenced era, the absence.”
Giving voice to what was silenced has powerful resonance with what’s going on far from Ethiopia, including with the struggle to gain visibility for Black and African experiences and lives.