Audio

Hailu Mergia & The Walias' Seminal Ethio-Jazz-Funk 'Eti Gual Blenai' [Premiere]

Okayafrica premieres "Eti Gual Blenai" ahead of Awesome Tapes From Africa's reissue of Hailu Mergia & The Walias' seminal 'Teche Belew.'


The period of the early 1960’s through the mid-1970’s marked a "golden age" in Ethiopian music history. In September 1974, about thirty years ago this month, Ethiopia's political, economic, and social climate shifted with the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie and the rise of the Derg regime. The country's music scene, at once dominated by Ethio-jazz and funk legends like Mulatu Astatke, entered a state of unremarkability. The Walias, led by keyboardist/arranger/composer Hailu Mergia, are perhaps one of the most influential groups to come from an otherwise stagnant era for Ethiopian music. Mergia, who started out working the nightclub scene in Addis Ababa, formed the Walias in the early 1970's. Last year Awesome Tapes From Africa reissued a solo cassette from Mergia, who now lives in DC. Hailu Mergia & His Classical Instrument: Shemonmuanaye, originally out in 1985, signaled Mergia's spellbinding work to resurrect the vintage Ethiopian accordion sound of his youth and pair it with psychedelic analog synth music. This year Awesome Tapes looks to Mergia's earlier days as a member of the Walias band.

An album of instrumentals originally released in 1977 off Ethiopia's Kaifa Records, Teche Belew is the seminal (and first / only) Walias full-length, which the group recorded at Radio Voice of the Gospel in Addis (the Lutheran-owned station was soon after taken over by the Deng government and used for propaganda purposes with its new name "Radio Voice of Revolutionary Ethiopia"). Intent on capturing a range of sounds, Mergia had asked four of his bandmates to contribute arrangements to the record, which, though primarily instrumental, featured a backing chorus of three vocalists. ATFA is gearing up to reissue Tche Belew next month– which will mark the first time it's been made available on CD / MP3 and also the first time it's been released outside of Ethiopia. Today we're excited to premiere Ethio-jazz-funk gem "Eti Gual Blenai," which opens with a grand introduction before launching into full Walias band twinkly bliss. Tche Belew is due out worldwide October 14th. Pre-order it via Boomkat, Rush Hour, Picadilly or Juno and listen to "Eti Gual Blenai" below.

Interview

Sarkodie Is Not Feeling Any Pressure

The elite Ghanaian rapper affirms his king status with this seventh studio album, No Pressure.

Sarkodie is one of the most successful African rappers of all time. With over ten years of industry presence under his belt, there's no question about his prowess or skin in the game. Not only is he a pioneer of African hip-hop, he's also the most decorated African rapper, having received over 100 awards from close to 200 nominations over the span of his career.

What else does Sarkodie have to prove? For someone who has reached and stayed at the pinnacle of hip-hop for more than a decade, he's done it all. But despite that, he's still embracing new growth. One can tell just by listening to his latest album, No Pressure, Sarkodie's seventh studio album, and the follow-up to 2019's Black Love which brought us some of the Ghanaian star's best music so far. King Sark may be as big as it gets, but the scope of his music is still evolving.

Sonically, No Pressure is predominantly hip-hop, with the first ten tracks offering different blends of rap topped off with a handful of afrobeats and, finally, being crowned at the end with a gospel hip-hop cut featuring Ghanaian singer MOG. As far as the features go, Sark is known for collaborating mostly with his African peers but this time around he branches out further to feature a number of guests from around the world. Wale, Vic Mensa, and Giggs, the crème de la crème of rap in America and the UK respectively all make appearances, as well as Nigeria's Oxlade, South Africa's Cassper Nyovest, and his fellow Ghanaian artists Darkovibes and Kwesi Arthur.

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