Brian Shimkovitz says:
So excited for the long-anticipated re-release of “Tche Belew,” Hailu Mergia and the Walias’ 1977 instrumental jazz and groove recording set against the backdrop of post-revolution Ethiopia. Following Mergia’s Shemonmuanaye/Classical Instrument reissue last year, the keyboardist and accordion player has been visiting stages across Europe and North America to much critical acclaim. “Tche Belew” was a groundbreaking recording and the LP became collectible for so many reasons but overall it is just an astounding merger of Ethiopian songs, elegant contemporary arrangements and “western” instrumentation. Completely sublime music from one of the seminal bands of a funk-laced era of Ethiojazz and soul.
The acclaimed and highly sought-after LP by Hailu Mergia and
the Walias, Tche Belew, an album of instrumentals released in
1977, is perhaps the most seminal recording released in the
aftermath of the 1974 revolution. The story of the Walias band is
a critical chapter in Ethiopian popular music, taking place during
a period of music industry flux and political complexity in the
Hailu Mergia, a keyboardist and arranger diligently working the
nightclub scene in Addis Ababa, formed the Walias in the early
1970’s with a core group of musicians assembled from prior
working bands. They played Mergia’s funk- and soul-informed
tunes, while cutting 45rpm singles with various vocalists.
While the Walias performed at top hotels and played the
presidential palace twice, their relationship with the Derg regime
was complex, evidenced by the removal of one song from the
record by government censors.
Decades later, Hailu Mergia was surprised to see the album
fetching more than $4,000 at online auctions (it helped that the
most popular of all Ethiopian tunes “Musicawi Silt” appeared on
the record). Now everyone has the chance to listen again—or
for the first time—to this timeless pillar of Ethiopian popular
Tche Belew is released on 9th October 2014 on the ever amazing Awesome Tapes from Africa.