Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ethiopian Energy Everywhere

Remember how I said that if you weren't at Balliceaux for the Kings Go Forth show, here, that it was your loss?
Okay, same deal, different band, but another limited big-city tour that just miraculously included us: Boston, Philly, NYC and DC.

Oh yes, and RVA.

The Debo Band out of Boston had everything they needed to lay down 60s and 70s-era Ethiopian grooves: congas, electric guitar, bass, accordion, sousaphone, saxophone and whatever else they decided to play.

Tonight's show featured them along with the visiting Fendika, a group of traditional Azmari artists from Ethiopia, lending their vocal and dancing talents.

This was truly a dream bill.

The place was packed. Bartender Sean told me they'd sold 100 tickets just today and the room only holds 200 people.

Add in planning types like me who'd bought their tickets before today and the brave souls who just walked up to the door and you've got a full house.

It was a tight fit to start and once the crowd started dancing, well let's just say body parts met body parts.

When I got there, I established my spot with a good view at the corner of the bar, where an Ethiopian guy immediately introduced himself to me; he'd driven from Harrisonburg for this show.

Later, I met a girl who'd come from DC.

It was a huge bonus to hear from two Ethiopians who had seen the band before and they only whetted my appetite further for the show we were all so excited about.

They tried to verse me on the dancing I was about to see so that I could join in, but you can imagine where that went.

I felt much better when the guy told me he wasn't any good at Ethiopian dancing either.

"Well, if you aren't any good with your heritage, what chance does this American have?" I asked, making him laugh and give up.

Peter Solomon from WCVE stopped by to chat with me, telling me that he sees me at every music event he attends.

He mistakenly assumed that that meant I had musical talent, so I relieved him of that misconception, clarifying that I'm just a music fan.

He was thrilled that the Debo Band had a sousaphone because it was the instrument that made him want to learn to play music.

Unfortunately, his dad found a trombone for a dollar, so he ended up learning that instead, but his love for the sousaphone lives on apparently.

But then the entire room was full of music lovers tonight.

I was one of many who loved how the Debo Band slipped into a groove and just stayed there.

With the addition of Fendika, the music became even more North African sounding and when the dancers shared the stage with them, it was like watching a complete circle of music and dance.

So we had this 14-piece jazz collective who already focus on Ethiopian grooves sharing the stage with traditional Ethiopian musicians, making for the funkiest world music possible in what gradually became an overheated room due to all the moving bodies.

Tonight Balliceaux was a little slice of slinky groove heaven.

Like I said, you should have been there.

My regrets if you weren't.


  1. Hey Karen, I am Debo's publicist. Looks like you had an amazing time and this was fun to read! Was wondering how to get in touch with you?

  2. Garrett,

    Just leave me a comment (with your e-mail address)and say you don't want it published and we'll be in touch!

    I'm glad you enjoyed reading me.