Field Recording Trip in the Ethio-hinterlands: Day 7 of 10

October 20, 2014

IMG_2271May 17, 2014
After a breakfast of special ful and strong coffee on the terrace of a café outside the hotel in slightly seedy Weldiya, we sped up the road towards Alamata, one of the first towns in southern Tigray. On our way we stopped at a gas station to fill up and clean the leaky oil that was causing some smoke. Inside they served smoked cow’s milk in glass bottles, which was strangely refreshing, and we bought dabo kolo (dried bread snacks).
We arrived in Alamata around noon and inquired about music at the local hotel. A couple of guys showed up to talk about music over a spaghetti lunch out back under a giant fig tree. According to them, all the musicians were IMG_2275away on some cultural retreat but we could potentially organize a session on our way back to Addis (I don’t believe this ended up working out).
So with this strikeout we piled into the Land Rover and headed back into the Amhara region to Sekota, where we were to meet a certain Solomon, some sort of friend of a friend. The decision had been made to aim for Mekele instead of Afar, as Quino’s priority was to record as much Tigrinya music as possible.
The road to Sekota was stunningly beautiful, sinewy and somewhat harrowing, a foreshadowing of what was to come over the next couple of days. As we climbed higher and higher (Sekota sits up at 2,266m, whereas Alamata is at 1500m), we rose above the ubiquitous verdant crop terracing etched into the sides of the mountains until we came to the quintessential arid, sawtoothed landscapes of the north. About an hour or two before arriving in Sekota we drove through some bizarre weather, sun with showers and an abundance of epic cloud formations, giving rise to a giant, glorious rainbow.
We rolled into Sekota just around dusk, met up with Solomon, an oddly and somewhat aggravatingly terse dude, and landed at one of the hotels in town.
IMG_2287Starving, we asked Solomon to take us to the best tibs place in town (which, to be fair, had very limited options). He wound up taking us on a walk and merely showing us different places. At the first uninspiring place we arrived, we asked him if this was the best tibs place, to which he totally unconvincingly replied “yes, this is good”. This happened two more times before we realized he was just taking us wherever there was food. We chose a kitsch, Chinese restaurant style place on the other side of town that served shiro. Beforehand, we stopped for a beer in a place buzzing with life. As we sat down, we heard crowds of people next door emoting over some sporting event. It sounded like a football match so Jonathan and I went to check it out – turned out the FA Cup final was being shown on a giant screen in front of a jam packed audience. Arsenal won by snatching victory from the jaws of defeat against Hull City.
IMG_2285After the beer and seeming non-discussion with Solomon, who appeared not to register anything we were telling him (and a perfect soundtrack of a weird 30 second constantly repeated loop of old music echoing from the bar), we went for our shiro and ambled back to the hotel to crash out. On the way back, Solomon mentioned that all the musicians were two plus hours down the road at some government festival and that if we wanted to go we could all head there the next day, first thing in the morning.
So we made the plan to leave at 8 am, and bade one another good night. I don’t think any of us could have predicted what was in store for us the next day…

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