In 1997, the Western world was first introduced to the rich musical history of Ethiopia through the Éthiopiques series of CD’s. The eponymous documentary tells the story of the French music journalist Francis Falceto, who masterminded this famous series. He worked together with producer Amha Eshete, who between 1969 and 1975 made 120 singles and 14 albums with Ethiopian musicians (under the label Amha Records; the first Ethiopian record label launched in the 1960ies), seeking him years later when he was living in exile. Together they preserved this evocative collection of music that would otherwise have been simply lost or forgotten.


The music emerged from a less repressive time in the late 20th century when Emperor Haile Selassie tolerated this infectious music, with its African sound influenced by Western genres such as soul, funk, rock ‘n’ roll and jazz. Eshete, who for many years lived as an exile in the United States, explains how everything changed with the military coup of 1974, bringing into power the brutal Derg regime that ruled until 1991.


In addition to Falceto and Eshete, the documentary interviews various Ethiopian musicians, including Girma Beyene, who was the pianist and arranger for the Walias Band. Éthiopiques also features playful animations and finishes with Beyene’s comeback, including live performances and recordings for “Mistakes on Purpose”, the 30th CD in the acclaimed series featuring Ethiopia’s most well known musicians over the years.


“The Jazz Funk music that came out of Addis Ababa in the 1960ies and 70ies was complex, fun, original and nearly lost to the world” an announcement at the American Museum of Natural History in New York regarding the launch of the documentary late last year.

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