Ethiopian Pop From the Debo Band

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Debo Band are a large ensemble led by Ethiopian-American saxophonist Danny Mekonnen and fronted by charismatic vocalist Bruck Tesfaye. Since their inception in 2006, the band has won raves for their groundbreaking take on Ethiopian pop music (think Ethiopiques), which incorporates traditional scales and vocal styles, alongside American soul and funk rhythms, and instrumentation reminiscent of Eastern European brass bands. Debo Band has received broad critical praise from The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, and NPR, who placed the band’s debut album—produced by Thomas “Tommy T” Gobena of Gogol Bordello—on their “50 Favorite Albums Of 2012” list.


Their highly anticipated sophomore album, Ere Gobez (FPE Records; May 20, 2016), continues the band’s innovative approach to the Ethiopian musical past, keeping the spirit of the original without being beholden to it—but gets even wilder in its grooves and imagination. Finding flights of fantasy in under appreciated historical moments, like Duke Ellington’s travels through Ethiopia or musical impact of Haile Selassie’s commitment of Ethiopian soldiers to the Korean War, Ere Gobez puts forward a bold work that reimagines Ethiopian popular music of the last forty years while also contributing powerful original compositions that add to the canon of funk and rock jams characteristic of the prolific 1970s Addis Ababa music scene.


Debo Band has been the recipient of grants by Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, New England Foundation for the Arts, and the globalFEST Touring Fund and has been presented at diverse venues across North America, including Lincoln Center, Montreal Jazz Fest, and South By Southwest, Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, Bumbershoot, The Kennedy Center, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and globalFEST. Debo have toured Ethiopia twice, appearing at both the Ethiopian Music Festival in Addis Ababa and Sauti Za Busara in Zanzibar, the largest music festival in East Africa. In North America, they’ve shared stages with Gogol Bordello, Arcade Fire, Amadou & Mariam, (DJ) Questlove, The Family Stone, Antibalas, and Ethiopian great Tilahun Gessesse.


The Debo Band will play at The Law on D on Aug 6 as part of Porchfest which runs from 3-9 PM.