Thursday, September 10, 2015 | 8:00 pm
In the early 70s, Ethiopia experienced a golden age of popular music with the rise of “Ethio-jazz” — a mesmerizing blend of zigzagging modal melodies and diminished harmonies played against a funky six-beat groove. At the center of the scene was vocalist Mahmoud Ahmed, who has been hailed as “one of the most exhilarating singers of the past half century” (The New Yorker). Ahmed’s 1975 album Erè Mèla Mèla is a classic release from the golden age of Ethiopian music and was the first East African release from that era to be embraced by a broad Western audience.
In the late 90s, dozens of Ahmed’s recordings were reissued on the popular Éthiopiques compilations — four volumes featured Ahmed exclusively — and he became his country’s foremost musical ambassador. In concert, his enigmatic multi-octave voice “seizes on a note, brief or sustained, and makes its pitch tremble as it its urgency could barely be contained” (The New York Times). Count on Ahmed and his ace ten-piece band to open Duke Performances’ 2015/16 season on an exultant note.