Boston’s Debo Band takes inspiration from a golden era of popular music in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in the late ’60s and early ’70s. During a brief period of cultural freedom in Ethiopia, funk and soul music fused spectacularly with local traditions. Debo Band’s debut album both honors and updates the sound of “swinging Addis.”
On “Asha Gedawo,” the sunny swing of a brass section playing in march time echoes the military bands of Ethiopia’s regal past. Bruck Tesfaye’s lead vocal brings in an element of Ethiopian folklore and a shot of American soul. This is the sound that made Addis swing, until a military coup in 1974 put an end to an extraordinary music scene.