Music

Album Preview: Mulatu Astatke- Mulatu Steps Ahead

by Winston "Stone" Ford

Mulatu AstatkeGreen Africa

Mulatu Astatke- Yegelle Tezeta

Africa is BIG for 2010. The music and culture has been getting more recognition in the States for the past year now, capped off with the Broadway showcase of Nigerian Femi Kuti. It’s good to see that more people are getting tuned into African music, and wiping away the tribal stereotypes that have long plagued the genre. However, people still continue to sleep on Ethiopian Jazz great Mulatu Astatke.

Mulatu isn’t a household name, however he’s been in the game for over 50 years, working with such Jazz greats as Duke Ellington in the 70s. His take on the genre is different from what you might expect. Etho-jazz is laced with African rhythms, some lazy horns, and a touch of the electric organ, blending in modern American, Latin, and pan-African sounds. The result is a musical form not heard on this side of the world. If you’ve heard the Nas and Damian Marley track “As We Enter,” then you should know that they pretty much wholeheartedly sampled Mulatu’s brilliant 1969 track “Yegelle Tezeta.”

Mulatu Steps Ahead, however, doesn’t focus at all on his past roots. Unlike previous efforts, he focuses more on American Jazz, recording a majority of the work with the Either/Orchestra in Boston. The result is a more traditional jazz album than many of his fans are accustomed to.

Is Jazz dead? Maybe. But guys like Mulatu are helping to keep the genre alive, fresh, and relevant. Mulatu Steps Ahead drops March 30th on Strut records.

More information at mulatu-steps-ahead.com.

Nas and Damian Marley – As We Enter.