When [Mulatu Astatke] returned home in 1969 it was with the idea of creating a more ambitious musical fusion. In Addis Ababa he discovered an upsurge of activity in the world of the arts and entertainment, and a booming night-life scene that offered plenty of scope for experiment. He called his new music "Ethio jazz", and his recordings from the period show him using local musicians, steeped in the four basic pentatonic modes with which they grew up, to impart a new flavour to the structures he had brought with him from America.
"There's an obvious influence from people like Duke Ellington," says Alexander Hawkins, the 33-year-old English pianist who has been a member of Astatke's band for the last five years and is featured on his most recent album, Sketches of Ethiopia. "Duke is one of Mulatu's heroes. But it's all filtered through this African rhythmic sensibility – sixes against fours and threes against twos in the music on a deep level – and also the other elements of the Ethiopian sound, in particular the modal language, which is probably the thing that most conspicuously sets it apart from other African traditions. The Ethiopian modes have an almost Arabic feel to them, this strange harmonic minor twist with a flat sixth and a sharp seventh, which gives the music a very unusual tonality." [The Guardian]
Regularly considered the "Father of Ethio-Jazz," Mulatu Astatke is in the US for two shows this weekend. He plays Psycho Las Vegas TONIGHT (8/18) at 10:30 PM PT, where he'll be joined by mostly metal and psych acts like Brian Jonestown Massacre, Sleep, Magma, Melvins, Chelsea Wolfe, Pelican, Sumac, and more.
Then on Sunday (8/20), he returns to NYC for a free Central Park SummerStage show with support from two vocalists: Tunisian protest singer Emel Mathlouthi (who's been picking up buzz in America lately) and Sudanese-American singer/songwriter Alsarah with her band the Nubatones. NYC-via-Ethiopia DJ Sirak is also on board for the evening. Doors open at 5 PM and the show goes from 6-10 PM.
All upcoming dates are listed, with some videos, below.
Mulatu Astatke -- 2017 Tour Dates
Aug 18 Psycho Las Vegas Las Vegas, NV
Aug 20 Central Park SummerStage New York, NY
Sep 13 Grande salle Pierre Boulez Paris, France
Sep 15 Fri-Son Fribourg, Switzerland
Sep 17 The Sugar Club Dublin, Ireland
Sep 18 The Sugar Club Dublin, Ireland
Nov 01 Gretchen Berlin, Germany
Nov 15 Nells Jazz & Blues London, United Kingdom