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A review by Mary Couzens for EXTRA! EXTRA!






Real World Records (CDRW183)

Distributed by Proper


Out Now


Since their 2006 inception, Ethiopian grown group Dub Colossus have successfully experimented with a variety of musical styles, incorporating those of Addis Ababa with ideas often put to them by fellow musician and producer Nick Page aka Dubulah, of Transglobal Underground and Syriana fame. Rather than simply joining, however, these contrasts have formed a distinctive and unique blend all their own. With aptly named Addis Through the Looking Glass, the group’s Ethiopian contingent have done their ‘own take on it’, with results reflecting on the very pulse of Addis.

In addition to being a group filled with innovative musicians, Dub Colossus has the advantage of featuring two great, distinctly different vocalists - soulful, highly successful African pop star Tsedenia Gebremarkos and Addis nightclub owner Sintayehu “Mimi” Zenebe, lauded as the ‘Edith Piaf’ of Ethiopia. Both singers lend their richly arresting vocals to the group’s already heady mix, at times together and, solo.

This forward thinking album also features contributions from reggae singer Mykaell Riley of Steel Pulse, Jamiroquai’s drummer Nick Van Gelder, the Horns of Negus brass section, bass from Dr. Das of Asian Dub Foundation and double bass from Syriana’s Bernard O’Neill who works with Dubulah, who, himself plays guitar, bass, harmonicas and keyboards, as well as being producer of this set and co-writing of several of its’ songs.

Upbeat but reflective title track, ‘Addis Through the Looking Glass’ opens this simmering collection with the lone trumpet and pulsing beat we might at first, associate with ‘70’s US jazz fusion, especially given its signature combo of chic, knowing urbanity and classy intermittent piano lines. However, there’s a buoyancy to this instrumental that speaks of its’ origins while reflecting on the music of the ‘other,’ Western groove.

Ironically named ‘Dub Will Tear Us Apart’ is Dub Colossus’ winning blend of epic Ethiopian, bouyant reggae and ardent soul, featuring the shimmering, from the heart vocals of  Mimi Zenebe, whose voice weaves beguilingly in, out and over the vibrant mix. At one point, male voices akin to Smokey Robinson’s backup singers lend their vibes, as sprightly horns accentuate.

Fluttering reed opens ‘Wey Fikir’ a veritable jazz inflected showcase for the velvety smooth vocals of Tsendenia Gebremarkos, on which horns step back, allowing her arching voice to take flight, as lightly but impressively as a butterfly, as sprightly reed gives chase.

Expressive guitar starts off ‘Yeh Shimbraw Tir Tir’ as a male voice begins to sing, and both Mimi and Tsendenia harmonise together, as only these two gifted divas can, making for an altogether winning combination – a track made for simultaneous dancing and, listening.

‘Tringo Dub’ takes us back to where we began with this fine group in terms of tempo, albeit, with distinctive differences, as strings take an active role and Samuel Yirga’s expressive piano underscores Mimi’s strong, questioning vocals. A little more orchestrated than usual for Dub Colossus, but very catchy and infectious none the less, as the band, Tsendenia included, sing responses to Mimi’s calls.

‘Satta Massangana’ is pure Dub, Colossus that is, with its coaxing vocals, lovely harmonies, strident musicianship and floating dub reggae lines, stream-lined in this case to fit those performing it, suffering no loss of soul in the process.

Ethio-pop meets gently flowing jazz in ‘Kuratu’ with its’ undercurrent of intrigue, nodding to some of the work of Dubulah’s other seriously intriguing group, Syriana, Tsendenia’s plaintive vocals define the song’s core of longing, as its instrumentation lends subtly loping texture, as Mimi joins in and background singing lends yet another evocative layer.

Instrumental ‘Feqer Aydiem Way’ initially focuses around its’ organ playing, reminiscent of that on classic Ethiopiques numbers, but there the similarity ends, as horns blaze, then divide, one playing sporadic melody lines the other trilling, as organ and other instruments simultaneously support.

A clapping beat, piano and electric guitar kick off ‘Guragigna’ in upbeat Dub Colossus style all the way, with Bole Brass lending depth, as Mimi sings wavering lead and Tsendenia rounds things off vocally, with an occasional whoop lending impetus.... Instantly identifiable, infectious and dance inducing.

An air of mystery inflects ‘Yezema Meseret’ enabled by vibrating bass, fluid piano, expressive horn and fluctuating flute, the sound of which appears, disappears and reappears like a bobbing songbird. The track has an atmosphere of secrecy.

Track eleven ‘Yigermel’ stimulates from the outset, with deftly fingered krar or six stringed lyre, sounding cymbal, continuous clapping, then, a male voice and that of Mimi, who shines as she opens up, sending the song’s message out to appreciative ears. Dancing, one follows grooves peculiar to this number.

‘Wehgems’, featuring Mimi’s sister Tiruedel Zenebe, is a gem of a track, all reflectively raw vocals, buoyed up by lightly rendered dub beats, xylophone sounding keys, tasty, but restrained guitar licks, and the occasional distant sounding horn burst as Tiruedel intermittently falls momentarily silent, allowing each their own individualistic sway.

Some may think a classic track like Althea and Donna’s‘Uptown Top Ranking’ needs no remaking but what Dub Colossus does with it bears listening, as it is distinctly different and the group has their own essence which emerges here to entertain and intrigue as vocalists Mimi and Tsendenia showcase their canny senses of timing and ability to delight their fans.

‘Gubelye’ is smart, sophisticated jazz with distinctive Be-Bop era flair, via provocative leading (and receding) horns, quavering guitar, kicking drums and bass and its’ overall, unified sense of chaotic cohesion. Again, Bole Better Brass features here.

Addis Though the Looking Glass, like the story that inspired the title, seems more of a journey towards something, rather than a journey in and of itself. As Dub Colossus have long been experimental and adventurous, getting there with them should be at least, half the fun.



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