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by Rachel Devitt

July 16, 2012

Rhapsody Radar 2012 #6: Debo Band

by Rachel Devitt  |  July 16, 2012

At one point in the '60s, it seemed like some sort of psychedelic, acid-fried jam music was happening in just about every corner of the world. And while all these movements were vaguely connected by countercultural ideologies and an interest in expanding rock, each scene also had its own distinct characteristics.

For example, the hip cats in Ethiopia created a genre that's been called "Ethio-jazz" or "Ethio-groove," all hinging on twisting melodies delivered by mournful vocals and snaking saxophones; the pentatonic harmonies and syncopated rhythms often found in traditional East African music; and a cross-section of soul, jazz, rock and Afrobeat. The scene was quashed by the country's political coup, but the powerful music lived on in the ears of crate-diggers and rabid fans of the richly archival Ethiopiques series.

Until now, however, not many contemporary bands have attempted to recreate and reinvent Ethio-groove, despite the current, undying fascination with retro global psych-rock. And that's where Debo Band come in. A multicultural, Boston-based collective of multi-instrumentalists who hail from a variety of cultural and musical backgrounds, Debo take a deep love for and knowledge of classic Ethio-grooves as their foundation. But the band also interweaves its members' disparate backgrounds into the sound: Klezmer, contemporary Afro-pop, French cabaret, Gypsy brass, New Orleans jazz and more dance cheek-to-cheek with those slinking saxes and shifting meters. It makes for a wild street party of a sound that's been winning the band fans at gigs around the country -- and critical acclaim for their self-titled Sub Pop debut.

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