Field Recording Trip in the Ethio-hinterlands: Day 3 of 10

September 8, 2014

IMG_2157May 13
Over yet another breakfast of inkulall firfir and buna, Nuhamin got wind of a cultural center right near where we were staying where dancers and musicians alike would regularly meet up to practice and perform. Once we situated it, by late morning we all eventually drifted down to the place.
Modest-looking from the outside with small wooden scaffolding at the entrance and a bit of a shambles in the “lobby”, the theater itself was remarkably large and in decent shape. There we met with the manager of the center and a small group of dancers, singers, and musicians, a portion of whom we would end up working with. Nuhamin explained the project to them and the manager proceeded to protractedly explain in Amharic and in English that while the money would by no means suffice – it was “like 10 cents, like 1 birr for him” – they would do the recording anyway. Nuhamin mentioned afterwards that he did this to show that he was not taking any money on the side.
The trouble of course was that we would have to wait until the next morning to record as it would be too time-consuming to locate all the musicians, set up, and record that day. So yet again, another day without so much as hitting the red button, but tempered by the fact that the next morning we would be working.
IMG_2162Quino, Gonzalo and I had a buna at the café in the lobby with one of our new friends, a young guy named Baye who looked like he copped his style from a 1960s Congolese rumba vinyl. He is definitely the coolest cat in Dessie! IMG_2193Here’s a picture of him taken the next day. He’s not a guitar player, nor was he even part of the recording, but he seems to be an active member of the cultural center.
So with time to kill, we ventured to a place adjoining the cultural center from the previous night where we had a lunch of beef tibs and tegabino shiro. Later on, Jonathan, Nuhamin and I ambled into the center of town (somewhat circuitously via the grounds of an old estate and modern day university). We were in search of a store called IMG_2190Tizita Grocery out of which a gentleman named Tsegaye used to sell cassettes. Our good friend and Ethiopian music specialist Kidus Berhanu recommended we seek out Tsegaye about the different music to be discovered in the region. We located the place – now a watering hole – and asked after Tsegaye. The barmaid told us he wasn’t around but would be back in an hour or and change, so we sat down and ordered a St. George beer on draft. Tsegaye eventually rolled in and we introduced ourselves and the project. As he was busy parlaying and schmoozing with the patrons of his bar, we ended up agreeing to meet up the next morning.
The Spanish contingent met up with us soon afterwards and we went to a place to have a fairly ordinary shiro for dinner nearby. J+N ended up heading back to the hotel, but Quino, Gonzalo and I hung out and drunk Ethiopian ouzo on the terrace of the restaurant we were in. By the end of the night we had revealed all and solved the worlds problems, stumbled out of the restaurant, and aimed for the hotel only to be steered by Quino into a dimly lit corner bar on some side street blasting chikchika (Ethiopop based on 6 over 4 rhythms). “One more drink,” he muttered..it wasn’t like we finally had work to do first thing in the morning…

Here’s the third of five teasers Quino has made for his documentary:

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