Bole 2 Harlem
Under the auspices of New York-based producer/composer David Schommer, the Bole 2 Harlem project forced a musical culture clash that -- like so many peanut-butter-and-chocolate scenarios -- ended up working better than anyone could have dreamed. Schommer corralled Gigi Shibabaw's little sister Tigist and Ethiopian rapper Maki Siraj, both of whom he knew from the local music scene, to wreak gentle hip-hop havoc on the ethereal, otherworldly Ethopian pop tradition. (Schommer acted as the glue that held the band together long enough to record its first release, Bole 2 Harlem, Vol. 1.) The album features Tigist singing and Siraj rapping, and rounds out the sound with several local Ethiopian session men. But while many hip-hop bands in Ethiopia mimic American rappers down to the accent, Bole 2 Harlem flips the script, turning cultural appropriation into cultural dialog. At its best, the band's debut moves beyond genre and into, quite simply, good music. Sadly, with members scattered and working day jobs, we may not see a second volume, though Schommer is reportedly working on a Brazil 2 Harlem project now. Stay tuned.