ASTER AWEKE / Aster Aweke Mixtape

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I have a penchant for sharing music I love but music about which I have very limited knowledge. Aster Aweke has been a long time favorite of mine. I fell off following her after 2000 when she began producing synthesizer laden pop music. Perhaps that’s why I missed her 2006 album, Fikir.

While looking for something else I ran across a reference to Aster Aweke’s new 2010 album, and from the description I was intrigued. When I finally found Checheho, I was enthralled.

First of all I like the production, live instruments and cuts long enough so that Aster can stretch out. Her forte is improvisation utilizing the full range and dynamics of that magnificent instrument that is her voice. Second, the music is more than a jingle over one or two chords. But third, and most important, Aster is singing full out.

Born in 1961 in Ethiopia. Aster moved to the United States around 1981, first residing in the Bay Area of California and after a brief (less than three years) moved on to the Washington DC area, which is the capital of the Ethiopian diaspora. In DC she built up her states-side popularity, which soon rivaled her popularity at home in Ethiopia.

Part of the reason, some would even argue the major reason, she left Ethiopia was because of the repressive political atmosphere. Now that there is a more liberal government, not only are ex-pats returning to Ethiopia but also it seems that cultural production is blossoming again. For certain Aster has attained a higher plateau.

If I could tell you a lot about the music, I would. My Amharic is not-existent and my limited music theory does not allow me to provide much technical assistance. All of my limitations notwithstanding, I am clear that Aster Aweke is one of the major vocalists of contemporary music.

In short, I love her ability to switch gears, to start off smoking and end up burning up. And once she gets revved up, check out she abandons lyrics and begins to use a myriad of sounds, and she does it without resort to screaming or over attachments to one or two stylistic tricks such as fake orgasm moans or rotely using excessive vibrato worrying one or two notes.

And more than an abundance of technical skills, Aster has tremendous imagination to go with a voice that can plummet the basement of low notes that will cause your big toe to vibrate on one song, and that can use an unerring soprano to climb into the stratosphere on the next song, indeed, sometimes within one song she will display the four or more octaves.
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And she makes it sound so easy—negotiating scales, controlling dynamics from whispers to outright hollers, and riding the rhythms while simultaneously urging the musicians forward is extremely difficult. When you find a singer who does it as easily and accurately as Aster Aweke you have found one of the vocal wonders of the world of music.

Listen closely, this is a master at work. The selections on this Mixtape are from Aster’s two most recent albums: Fikir and Checheho. As you listen to these marvelous tracks, note that the music itself is a wonderful mix of traditional Ethiopian sounds and elements of African American music, especially jazz and seventies funk. Sometimes you might even think it sounds familiar or that you’ve heard something like this before. And on the level of emotional connection, it’s true this is us, the way we do the things we do.

—Kalamu ya Salaam

Aster Aweke Mixtape

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01 “Ameseginalehu”
02 “Kulun”
03 “Fikir Ayalkibet”
04 “Keremela”
05 “Baba Baba”
06 “Gonder”

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07 “Sewenatae”
08 “Ayzoh”
09 “Yesew-sew”
10 “Yikirta”
11 “Yeamral”
12 “Murit”

This entry was posted on Monday, June 27th, 2011 at 1:39 am and is filed under Contemporary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “ASTER AWEKE / Aster Aweke Mixtape”

audiologo Says:
June 30th, 2011 at 10:35 pm

Thanks for this! She is one of my favs since becoming acquainted with her music years ago when I was still randomly used-record-bin digging.

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