GIGI w/ MATERIAL

MESGANA ETHIOPIA

  1/  Baty                                       (Shibabaw)                    4.29
  2/  Gudfela                                    (Shibabaw)                    5.38
  3/  Shema                                      (Shibabaw)                    6.51
  4/  Mata Mata                                  (Shibabaw)                    7.43
  5/  Shemum Mune                                (Shibabaw)                    8.12
  6/  Tizita and Zerafewa                        (Traditional)                 10.59
  7/  Ethiopia                                   (Shibabaw)                    6.57
  8/  Zomaye                                     (Shibabaw)                    6.11

          Recorded live on July 25, 2009 at Festival Glatt & Verkehrt, Krems, Austria
          Recording by Oz Fritz
          Addtional Work at Orange Music, Orange NJ
          Engineering: Robert Musso 
          Assistant Engineer: James Dellatacoma
          Produced by Bill Laswell
          Package Design by John Brown @ Cloud Chamber
          Concert Coordination: Steven Saporta   
          Festival Coordination: Josef Alchger
          Executive Producer: Giacomo Bruzzo
          M.O.D. Technologies: John Brown 
          M.O.D. Japan: Yoko Yamabe
          M.O.D. Technical Support: Dave Pak @Play X Play
          M.O.D. Digital Support: Dave Brunelle (Silently Watching) 
          Mastering by Michael Fossenkemper at Turtle Tone, NYC
Ejigayehu "Gigi" Shibabaw: vocals; Bill Laswell: bass; Abegasu Shiota: keyboards; Hamid Drake: drums; Aiyb Dieng: percussion; Dominic Kanza: guitar; Steve Bernstein: slide trumpet; Peter Apfelbaum: tenor sax, flute, percussion; Alemayehu Fanta (6): mesinko, vocals.

          2010 - M.O.D. Technologies, MD0004 (USA) (CD)


REVIEWS :

The music on Gigi was clearly from Africa, but didnít seemed locked into any single tradition. The album was produced by Bill Laswell and he brought in some serious jazz heavyweights: Wayne Shorter, Pharaoh Sanders, and Henry Threadgill. But thereís no question whose album this was and those horn men played behind Gigiís voice beautifully. Itís probably the most accessible music Iíve ever heard either Sanders or Threadgill play. Thatís because Gigiís voice instantly takes hold of the listener and the Ethiopian rhythms move without ever threatening to overwhelm. With more albums, Gigi and Laswell introduced more elements of the avant-garde on top of her core of Ethiopian melodies mixed with things borrowed from the rest of the Africa continent. The music theyíve produced has stayed exciting.

The new release (October 19, 2010), Mesgana Ethiopia, was recorded live and features a good mix of African tradition with experimental touches that this time, thankfully, enhance the music without domineering it. The diversity of Ethiopian music makes it a logical step to include sounds from the whole world. Itís fair to call this world beat or global fusion. The album is actually credited to Gigi with Material. Material was once a band, but now seems just to be a name for any of Laswellís projects. Here, the band is from all over the world and all are musicians comfortable in multiple genres. Laswell is on bass, Abegasu ShiotaĖan Ethiopian of Japanese descent whoís played with a whoís who of Ethiopian musicians is on keyboard, American Hamid Drake is behind the drum kit, Senegalese percussionist Aiyb Diengís West African styles are featured prominently, Congolese guitarist Dominic Kanza has plenty of room to solo throughout the album, as do two of the bright lights of the downtown jazz scene Steven Bernstein and Peter Apfelbaum on trumpet and saxophone.

The music starts off in Laswellian territory, Bati is an ambient number with Bernstein and Apfelbaum adding atmospheric playing to the slow brew created by the band. Itís easy to get lost in this music with Gigiís otherworldly vocals on top. The danceable grooves begin with Gufela, percussion comes to the forefront and the band comes together with punchy horns and Gigi emphasizing the rhythm. Most of the album stays in this zone. Shema is a melodic song that brings to mind the Tanzanian music of Oliver Mtukudzi that everyone seems to love the first time they here it. Only occasionally does the music fall into the trap of using the songs as an excuse for solos. The fast-paced Mata Mata is one of those times, but with soloists as talented as Kanza, Bernstein, and Apfelbaum, many listeners wonít find any cause for complaint.

The only purely traditional song is Tizita and Zerafewa. Itís also the only song here not written by Gigi. Itís a duet accompanied by a traditional fiddle (a masenqo?) and percussion that recalls the music that made Mahmoud Ahmed a huge star in Ethiopia (and is featured on the Ethiopiques series). Ethopia seems to be Gigiís attempt to musically show her love for the country where she grew up but no longer lives. Its beautiful melody is a nice tribute. On the closing track, Zomaya, all the musicians are give a chance to stretch out on a rocker. Throughout Mesgana Ethiopia is complex music with rhythms and a feel that sound instantly familiar. It should appeal to any fans of world music, jazz, jam band stuff, or female vocals.

Michael Rugel (courtesy of the CultureMob website)

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There's something magical about African music. Sure, each country has its own styles. But, regardless of the country, classic African artists like Fela Kuti, King Sunny Ade, and Ali Farka Tourť create music that can hypnotize. It's easy to get pulled into the polyrhythm and call and response. At some level, many African musical cultures have an ecstatic feel, where the players and the listeners all immerse themselves into the songs. This is music that demands movement and rewards focus.

Gigi Shibabaw, a singer transplanted from Ethiopia to San Francisco, follows in this rich tradition. She got her break in 2001, when Bill Laswell produced her album Gigi. Backed by a pack of famous jazz players, she stood out based on her strong, warm voice. Now married to Laswell, Gigi continues to produce beautiful and wonderful music. Her latest, Mesgana Ethiopia, features Laswell's latest Material lineup. This is a live recording of a show in Austria from last year. The sound is great and the set reflected a nice potpourri of styles.

Baty eases into a dreamy, ambient beginning, sounding a bit like Carlos Santana's jazzier work. There's a call and response feel between Gigi's phrasing and the solos. The overtly African feel doesn't kick in until Mesgana Ethiopia's second song, Gudfela. This has a perfect in-the-moment feel that recalls Fela Kuti. Gigi's voice is compelling, with a storytelling cadence. The jazzy African style is tight: repeated guitar figures, complex syncopation from the drums and percussion, and washes of horns. The band has some great energy here. The jazzy horn work at the end is perfect. Throughout the rest of the set, Gigi's voice is complemented by African pop mixed with jazz or R&B. The main exception to this is the traditional Ethiopian sound of Tizita and Zerafewa, which ditches most of the band to focus on a vocal duet, backed by simple percussion and a quavering fiddle-like instrument. This is a case where I really wish I understood the lyrics. This leads into the sweet Ethiopia that expresses a loving homesickness.

Gigi's silky voice, fond respect for her roots, and great backup musicians make Mesgana Ethiopia a wonderful CD. I'll skip continents, though, to pair this up and offer some chai from India to complement the exotic feel.

Jester Jay (courtesy of the Jester Jay blog)

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To say that modern African pop is amazingly diverse would be an understatement. Musicologists could spend hours and hours discussing the many different types of pop that exist on the African continent, where one finds everything from music that is really upbeat, festive, and exuberant (soukous and zouk, for example) to the moodier, duskier sounds coming out of Ethiopia, Mali, and the Sudan. Mesgana Ethiopia, a live recording that unites Ethiopian star Ejigayehu Shibabaw, aka Gigi, with bassist/producer Bill Laswell's outfit Material, definitely falls into the latter category. Gigi thrives on moody, haunting grooves, and the big-voiced singer is quite expressive on hypnotic offerings such as "Shemum Mune," "Gudfela," "Mata Mata," and "Baty." One of the interesting things about these performances is the way that Gigi manages to sound contemporary and rootsy at the same time. While Gigi's original material is modern African pop (though she also performs some traditional songs), there is never any doubt that she gets a lot of inspiration from traditional Ethiopian music as well as from traditional Arabic music. But Gigi (who sings in Ethiopia's Amaharic language) also gets a great deal of inspiration from American jazz, soul, and funk (jazz musician Peter Apfelbaum is heard on tenor sax and flute). In fact, the strong jazz influence that is impossible to miss on Mesgana Ethiopia demonstrates that Gigi and Material are well aware of the innovations of the late Nigerian star Fela Kuti, who was influenced by the modal breakthroughs of John Coltrane and other post-bop greats (Coltrane was greatly influenced by world music, and ironically, Kuti ended up being greatly influenced by Coltrane). Gigi's live encounter with Material yields nonstop excellence on Mesgana Ethiopia.

Alex Henderson (courtesy of the All Music Guide website)

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Essential 'Material' That's Essentially 'Gigi' Live!

This is a live document from the European Material tour, dated July 25, 2009, but is quite clearly more of a 'Gigi live' cd, with Material as a backing band, which was blindingly overdue and welcomed by yours truly. It's additional proof (for those who still need convincing) that this Ethiopian Enchantress is the preeminent vocalist to emerge in ages. She would be a household name by now if we humans had any real smarts, but such as it is, though she may indeed be "Ethiopia's gift to the world", few have unwrapped and savored this gift. Unfortunately, this new release won't assist this cause, simply because Material is far too muscular, demanding, challenging and genre-defying to make it so (and I mean this as praise). But for those of us who are familiar with Bill Laswell, whose been calling various aggregations 'Material' since 1977 or thereabouts, and with Gigi since she hit the scene almost a decade ago, we have been blessed with a monumental outing that could only be made better if we had been in the audience ourselves.

Most of the tracks here have appeared on Gigi's earlier efforts or Laswell's 'Sacred System' releases, but are radical reworkings along with some new songs afoot, so the entire cd sounds fresh, crisp and new. This particular incarnation of Material is comprised of Laswell ('natch) on bass, longtime associates Hamid Drake on drums and Aiyb Dieng on percussion, Dominic Kanza on guitar, Abegasu Shiota on keys, Peter Apfelbaum on tenor and flute and Steven Bernstein on trumpet.

Laswell's sub-woofer-destroying bass lines provide a massive, heaving anchor, leaving Hamid Drake tons of room to flex his drumming skills and add killer fills while playing games with meter and subjugate time at will - it's nothing short of rhythm section brilliance. If Gigi wasn't such a formidable vocal force, she'd get swallowed up whole by this brutally phat consortium of considerably skilled musos. All gathered are assassins on their respective instruments. Yet her voice rises above the din magically, lyrically and majestically, and never loses place. It takes a talent as great as hers to make this legion of leaders remain subordinate to her vocal prowess. Thanks to Oz Fritz, who engineered, Gigi's voice almost dominates the band. A highly remarkable achievement on many levels.

As a huge aficionado of all concerned, I can't praise this cd highly enough - as 'One Music for One World', it's mandatory 'Material'.

5 stars out of 5

Anthony C. Rubbo (courtesy of the Amazon.com website)