Songs from the road: Scott Hamilton

Sep 25, 2019

Words from Scott Hamilton, a key player in the production of our latest film Wax & Gold.

This playlist consists of songs we listened to on our trip to Ethiopia this past spring to film Wax & Gold. These songs represent the tie between traditional Ethiopian music and the myriad of other modern genres that are either directly or subconsciously inspired by the mother continent.

The two artists below have songs in the playlist, and are also featured in our film.

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It was an incredible honor to meet the soft-spoken Mulatu Astatke and hear his vibes first hand in his jazz club at the Hotel Ghion. His regained popularity outside of Ethiopia is easy to understand when you hear the beautiful transcending melodies in his music. Re-presses of his records can be found in quality record stores all over the world. He left most of our party speechless after filming what was essentially a private concert for our 9 person crew. Mind blowing. We returned the following night to drink and dance in the full club at their regular gig and found ourselves extremely impressed at the mix of modern and traditional instruments used by his band mates, both young and old themselves, allowing for the telling of a wide-ranging story with their music, as they moved from Mulatu originals to covers of songs by Nigeria’s Fela Kuti.

Spending time in Endeguena Mulu’s home in Addis, where he creates multilayered new music with beat machines, samplers and effects, was a treat. He not only samples recorded music of the past, but also builds his Ethiopiyawi Electronic songs and sound by layering in current young musicians who play live drums and traditional string and wind instruments of Ethiopia. Building future sounds with tools from the past. His song here is his feature on the new Bahir album, which is awesome, but to Endeguena’s dismay is found in the generic blanket term “world” music on most streaming platforms.

Melaku Belay was another joy of a person that we met during our time in Addis. He is an accomplished dancer and when he and his band Fendika aren’t traveling the world sharing their Ethiopian songs and dances, they are running the cultural center of the same name in the Kazanchis neighborhood. In the evenings at Fendika, musicians back the incredible dancers, as well as many stars of Ethiopian music who some nights take turns performing their past hits. Melaku also had a beautiful collection of rare original records on display at the cultural center by Ethiopian greats such as Mulatu, Ahmed Mahmoud, and Hailu Mergia, that he spins when not singing or dancing himself.

I am no expert on any of these types of music, but a fan of these artists, songs and styles and the lineage they share and rhythms or groove that run through all of them. Hope you enjoy them. They pair well with a cup of coffee from Mordecofe.