Mikael Seifu Zelalem
Published Mar 02, 2016Moving from Ethiopia to New Jersey and back again, and returning with a new perspective on building upon traditional Ethiopian music, Mikael Seifu's new album Zelalem exposes the complex sounds being created in Addis-Ababa. Seifu coined this hybrid of Western-influenced beats and traditional Ethiopian instrumentation and vocals as "Ethiopiyawi Electronic," and the album settles into a sound of its own, the tracks heavily guided by folk instruments like the stringed krar and masenko.
The wonder of Zelalem is that it never compromises itself to appeal to a specific audience or market. Instead Seifu, inspired by the fusion of Ethio-jazz, preserves the traditional sound by pairing it with a loose structure of minimal synths and unobtrusive, often muted beats. A large portion of the EP plays out as a beautiful, slow evolution of regional folk music, quietly yet distinctly building in urgency, the reverberating plucks of strings finding welcome space alongside distinct vocals that puncture the tracks and add an entirely new level of sound. (RVNG Intl.)