December 24, 2006

Emahoy Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou

The Homeless Wanderer – Ethiopia to Europe to Jerusalem

TAGS: Artist: Ethiopiques Album: Ethiopia Song, piano solo Track: the homeless wanderer Other Tags: Ethiopiques Volume 21 Many of us have come to know and love the Ethiopiques series. And for folks that didn’t already know the amazing music, Jim Jarmusch’s last feature film, Broken Flowers introduced a few million new listeners to the sounds.

The rest of the post comes between the span A while back, (the lastest in the series) Ethiopiques Volume 21 was released, this was a departure for the usually upbeat, and often ensemble recordings of semi-danceable rhythms that appear on many of the Ethiopiques volumes. Volume 21 features a woman named Emahoy TseguÈ-Maryam GuÈbrou playing solo piano.

Emahoy was born into a prominent Ethiopian family in 1923, she was the daughter of the heralded Ethiopian writer and intellectual, Kentiba GuÈbrou. She spent a good deal of her youth and young adult years away from her native Ethiopia. She was sent as a child to Switzerland, where she studied violin and piano. She continued playing the piano when she returned to Ethiopia, and then continued her studies under a Polish teacher in Egypt.

At some point during her studies she was living in England and for some, most likely retarded patriarchal reason, she was prevented from continuing her music studies, so at that point she decided to become a nun.

The lifestyle must have afforded her the time to at least occasionally practice, compose and evolve as an artist because it shows in her beautiful work.
You can see the imprint of her European studies in Beethoven, Strauss and Chopin and it said that she was also at least vaguely aware of the happenings of early Ethiopian Pop artists like Tilahun Gessese, Hirut Bekele, Mahmud Ahmad and Bizunesh Bekele and was influenced by the religious music of the Ethiopian church as well.

I think she is still alive, living as a Christian nun in a Jerusalem monastery.

The tracks on this disc are culled from sessions ranging from 1963 when she was 40 years old up to some sessions in the early 90’s when she was in her early 70’s. It seems that she was mostly self-recorded.

Its not that the music is completely different from anything you’ve ever heard. That’s just it….her compositions pay homage to beautiful elements of European and Ethiopian styles, its smooth enough to play for your grandma and hip enough to impress the indie record store clerk. Meditative, adventurous and extremely pleasant.

The first track, ‘The Homeless Wanderer’ gets me everytime.

Check it out.

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