ERNESTO CHAHOUD PRESENTS TAITU SOUL-FUELLED STOMPERS FROM 1960S-1970S ETHIOPIA.

Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers From 1960s-1970s Ethiopia.

Label: BBE Africa.

It’s often the case that the people who compile and curate compilations have a fascinating story to tell, and especially about how their love of music came about. That is the case with thirty-six year Lebanese DJ and crate digger Ernesto Chahoud who has compiled a new compilation for BBE Africa. This new compilation is Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers from 1970s Ethiopia which focuses on the golden age of Ethiopian music. 

For Ernesto Chahoud and many aficionados of Ethiopian music they’re in no doubt that the sixties and seventies was a golden age of Ethiopian music. During that period, musicians and bands decided to experiment, and fused a variety of different influences and disparate 

genres including boogaloo, funk,  jazz, R&B, rock ’n’ roll and soul to create new, exciting and innovative music. This Ethiopian interpretation featured pentatonic scales and often stomping beat while braying horns provided the melody and accompanied impassioned vocals sung in Amharic. It was potent and heady brew and one that won over Ernesto Chahoud the first time he heard it. 

This was the start of a lifelong love affair with Ethiopian music for Ernesto Chahoud, who even today spends much of his time looking for hidden gems and rarities to add to his burgeoning collection. Some of the Ethio-Soul singles Ernesto Chahoud has discovered over the years regularly feature in his now legendary DJ sets. Some of these singles are among the twenty-two tracks on Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers from 1970s Ethiopia, which instantly, transports the listener back to the golden age of Ethiopian music.  However, that wasn’t where compiler Ernesto Chahoud was born and where his remarkable story took shape.

Instead, Ernesto Chahoud was born in West Beirut, in the Lebanon into a family of communist militants in May 1981. By then, the Lebanese Civil War was underway, and it lasted fifteen long years. This was a War that loomed large in Ernesto Chahoud’s young life.

With Ernesto Chahoud’s family being communist militants and his father playing an active part in the Lebanese Civil War, it was  a regular occurrence for armed militia to arrive in the family home. Regularly, men and women arrive in the family and would eat and drink with Ernesto Chahoud and the rest of his family. Over the weeks, months and years, Ernesto Chahoud regularly saw handguns and machines guns in the family home. Unlike children in the West, Ernesto Chahoud grew-up playing with real guns rather than toy guns. Alas, this was only part of the story.

In the Chahoud family home, there were many books about the ideologies his parents believed in. The young Ernesto Chahoud read them in an attempt to make sense of what was going on around him. Meanwhile, Ernesto Chahoud and his family were constantly having to move house, because of threats to their lives. It was a worrying time for the Chahoud family.

To make matters worse, Ernesto Chahoud had to get use to his father disappearing for months on end. Back home, the rest of Chahoud family worried for his safety. There was always the possibility he had been kidnapped, wounded or even killed. However, it wasn’t Ernesto Chahoud’s father that was kidnapped.

Instead, it was his mother who was kidnapped in the mid-eighties by right-wing militia. For over a year, Ernesto Chahoud’s mother was kept hostage. For Ernesto Chahoud who was only a four or five, this must have a worrying time, as he didn’t know whether he would see his mother again. However, eventually Ernesto Chahoud’s mother returned home, but the dragged on.

After fifteen years, an announcement was made on the ’13th’ of October 1990 that the Lebanese Civil War was over. Sectarian groups had decided to give up their arms as a new era began. Meanwhile, Ernesto Chahoud remembers that day clearly and can picture the   militia men that were in house frantically shaving of their beards, and wondering what the future held for them?

For may militia men, the war and guerrilla warfare was all they knew. It had taken over their lives, and once Lebanese Civil War was over, they had nothing to fill the void. Some former militia men couldn’t readjust to civilian life, and fell into a deep depression. This included Ernesto Chahoud’s father. Other militia men were happy that the war was over, returned to their family and found new jobs. Ironically, peace affected people in different ways.

Despite the end of Lebanese Civil War, military training was still compulsory for young men in the Lebanon. When Ernesto Chahoud turned thirteen it was time for him to undertake his military training.

By then, Ernesto Chahoud had digested the works of Marx and Lenin, and had read about October Revolution and the Soviet Union which was where the communist militia’s loyalties lay. It was also where the AK-47 that Ernesto Chahoud was handed when his military training began. 

By 1994, the AK-47 was still the weapon de jour for everyone from so-called “revolutionaries” and “freedom fighters” to terrorists and armies that were sympathetic to the Soviet Union. This included the Lebanese Army, and at a time when teenagers in the West were entering high school, thirteen years old Ernesto Chahoud was learning how to use one of the most powerful automatic weapons available. It was a sad state of affairs, and teenagers in Lebanon were being robbed of a normal life.

The only thing that Ernesto Chahoud and his friends share with teenagers in the West was a love of music. However, much of the music that Ernesto Chahoud listened to consisted of revolutionary songs from Lebanon, the Soviet Union, Egypt, Iraq, Sudan, Syria and the Yemen. Even though he was still in his early teens, Ernesto Chahoud was embracing an eclectic selection of music. This love of music continued throughout his teenage years.

The problem that Ernesto Chahoud encountered, was that there was no music scene in the Lebanon. In this war ravaged country, there were no recording studios, music venues and music magazines. This didn’t stop Ernesto Chahoud immersing himself in music, and over the next few years he embraced numerous disparate genres, soaking new music up like a sponge. 

Soon, he was a familiar face in the tape shacks that had sprung up, and Ernesto Chahoud regularly followed the tape sellers as they sold they tapes on the city streets. Eventually, when Ernesto Chahoud had some money of his own, he would buy new record, which he would listen to at home with like-minded friends. Later, they would go out to local bars, which was where Ernesto Chahoud had a eureka moment,

As Ernesto Chahoud and friends sat in a bar in Beirut, they listened to the music playing. It wasn’t the type of music they liked, and it was then that Ernesto Chahoud decided to ask the barman if he could play his records in the bar? When he said yes, this was the start of Ernesto Chahoud’s DJ career.

Soon, Ernesto Chahoud was DJ-ing in other bars and clubs, and was a familiar face as he spun an eclectic selection of music. Initially, he played sixties R&B, but soon, his musical tastes were changing and broadening. Ernesto Chahoud had embarked upon a voyage of discovery, and soon, was spinning everything from jazz, fusion and seventies funk and later, disco and rap. The eclectic selection of music that Ernesto Chahoud played, came from an unlikely source…the local flea market.

Just like in Britain and America, very people wanted to buy vinyl in Beirut, as people were buying CDs. This was good news for Ernesto Chahoud, who was able to buy large quantities of vinyl for small sums of money in the local flea market. With vinyl so cheap, Ernesto Chahoud was willing to take a chance on singles and albums he knew nothing about. However, if they looked interesting, Ernesto Chahoud would add these records to his burgeoning collection. Soon, everything from American jazz, British pop and rock and even albums by Stockhausen and Agitation Free were added to Ernesto Chahoud’s collection. After a while, Ernesto Chahoud decided to head overseas on a crate digging expedition. His destination was Ethiopia where he journey with his DJ partner JJ Whitefield.

During his first expedition to Ethiopia, Ernesto Chahoud discovered a veritable musical feast of new and exciting music from the sixties and seventies. This as Ernesto Chahoud was to discover, was the golden age of Ethiopian music. That was when Getatchew Kassa recorded Zamam Sew Labene, which was the very first Ethiopian record that Ernesto Chahoud discovered. This was the first of many Ethiopian records Ernesto Chahoud discovered over the next ten years. 

Despite his best efforts, one record continued to elude Ernesto Chahoud, Hirut Bekele’s Ewnetegna Feker. This was the record that Ernesto Chahoud describes as a “fever” and began his lifelong love affair with Ethiopian music, and especially Ethio-Soul. However, after ten long years, Ernesto Chahoud discovered a copy of  Hirut Bekele’s Ewnetegna Feker which fittingly, features on his new compilation, Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers From 1960s-1970s Ethiopia. It’s among a compilation that feature what Ernesto Chahoud described as “stompers” and “clappers.” That is a fitting description of this wonderful music, which sometimes may have a lo-fi sound, but features emotive and impassioned performances from the not just great and good of Ethiopian music, but some of its lesser names. They all play their part in the success of Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers From 1960s-1970s Ethiopia.

The legendary Mulatu Astatke, who is one of the most influential and Ethiopian musicians opens the compilation with an instrumental “stomper”he wrote and recorded, Emnete . It was released on the B-Side of a split single that was released by Phillips Ethiopia in 1970. However, this classic instrumental that has filled many a dancefloor is nowadays better known than Tilahun Gessesse’s single Tiz Alegn Yetintu.

Alkedashim is only single that Birkineh Wurga released during his career. It was written by Getatchew Alemu and released on Phillips in 1975 band. This hidden gem features an arrangement that marries elements of funk and jazz with an impassioned and soulful vocal. The result is a powerful and moving song, 

From the get-go, it sounds as if Alemayehu Eshete has been inspired by the self-styled Godfather of Funk James Brown on Chiro Adarie Negne, which was the B-Side of Afer Yemegnshale which was released  by Amha Records in 1970. Chiro Adarie Negne is uber funky as Alemayehu Eshete’s vocal veers between soulful and powerful. The man known as the “Ethiopian James Brown” returns on Mekeyershin Salawke which was also released on Amha Record and was guaranteed to fill a dancefloor. Alemayehu Eshete’s third contribution is one of his own compositions Gizew Honeshyna which featured on the B-Side to Fiker Fiker Naw. It’s an explosive track that was too good to languish on the B-Side of a single.

Hirut Bekele’s Ewnetegna Feker is the track that Ernesto Chahoud spent ten years looking for. It was worth the wait to hear one of finest moments in the career of the First Lady of Ethiopian music. She’s backed by the Bodyguard band as she delivers an impassioned and emotive vocal on Ewnetegna Feker. Incredibly, it also languished on the B-Side of the single Des Yemiase which was released by Kaifa Record in 1977.  Five years earlier, in 1972 Hirut Bekele released one of the most beautiful, soulful songs on the compilation, Almokerum Nebere. It’s a clapper that was released on the Amha label and features a stunning jazzy guitar solo that adds the finishing touch to one of the compilation’s highlights.

Fittingly, Tilahun Gessesse who was the most popular Ethiopian singer in the seventies features twice on the compilation. His first contribution is Aykedashim Libe which was released as a single on Phillips in 1974. He’s accompanied by the Army Band who drive this funky, rousing arrangement along as Tilahun Gessesse’s vocal veers between powerful to passionate and vampish. Tilahun Gessesse’s other contribution is Sigibgib Joroye which was also released on Phillips and features a stunning, impassioned vocal on what’s regarded as a legendary dance track.

Temelese was the one and only collaboration between two of the giants of Ethiopian music, Hirut Beqele and Alemayehu Eshete. It was released on Amha Records and is features a funky arrangement, while the legends deliver a vocal masterclass.

Bezunesh Bekele’s Aha Gedawo is a horn driven clapper, that was released as a single on Phillips in September 1972. It finds singing call and response on this beautiful, sometimes mesmeric clapper where jazz, funk and soul are fused seamlessly.

Back in the early seventies, Seifu Yohannes was regarded as one of Ethiopia’s top clappers. Proof of that is his clapper Mela Mela, which was released on Amha Record in April 1971. It was written and arranged by the Soul Ekos band who are responsible for the braying horns and thunderous drums on this irresistible and hypnotic clapper.

Funky describes the arrangement to Getatchew Kassa’s Fikrishin Eshaleyu as the rhythm section combine with punchy horns and washes of swirling Hammond organ. Meanwhile, Getatchew Kassa adds the vocal to this glorious slice Ethiopian funk.

Muluken Melesse’s career began as a twelve-year-old when he began playing singing in nightclubs. By the time the singer and drummer signed to Kaifa Records in the mid-seventies, he was regarded as one of Ethiopian’s music best and most talented vocalists. Proof of that is Alagegnhwatem which was the B-Side Tizita which was released on Kaifa Records. It’s a reminder of another of the great names in Ethiopian music during this golden era.

Closing Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers From 1960s-1970s Ethiopia is Ene Yewodedquat which was the B-Side to Tamrat Molla’s single Ber Ambar Seberelew. It was released on Amha Records in December 1971, and although there’s a rawness to the recording, the combination of the funky arrangement and Tamrat Molla’s soulful vocal is a potent and successful one that ensures the compilation ends on a high.

For anyone with even a passing interest in Ethiopian or African music, then Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers From 1960s-1970s Ethiopia which has just been released by BBE Africa is essential listening. It’s a loving curated compilation from thirty-six year Lebanese DJ and crate digger Ernesto Chahoud who is passionate about Ethiopian music, and especially Ethio-Soul. However, its music from the sixties and seventies, which was the golden age of Ethiopian music that Ernesto Chahoud has spent over a decade searching for.

Even today, Ernesto Chahoud spends much of free time searching for music from the golden age of Ethiopian music, which he then spins during his now legendary DJ sets. These sets feature many of the tracks Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers From 1960s-1970s Ethiopia, which are nearly impossible to find. Some of these tracks are real rarities, and change hands for every increasing sums of money. Sadly, only crate diggers with deep pockets will be able to afford original copies of these tracks even if they can find them. However, the easiest and most economical way to own these tracks is by buying a copy of Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers From 1960s-1970s Ethiopia. It’s a reminder of the innovative music being released during the golden age of Ethiopian music.

During that period, musicians and bands took upon themselves  to experiment, and fuse a variety of different influences and disparate genres, ranging from boogaloo, funk,  jazz, R&B, rock ’n’ roll and soul in an attempt to create new, exciting and innovative music. The musicians used pentatonic scales and often stomping beat or handclaps while braying horns provided the melody and accompanied impassioned  and soul-baring vocals sung in Amharic. It was potent and heady brew and one that won over Ernesto Chahoud the first time he heard it, and will win over listeners when they hear  Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers From 1960s-1970s Ethiopia for the first time.

Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers From 1960s-1970s Ethiopia.

1 Comment

  1. Kind of crazy that the 60’s and 70’s were a golden age for so many types of music!

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