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Dub Colossus

Photo (c) Abate Damte

with support from Krar Collective and D J Jamie Renton


Bloomsbury Ballroom

November 10, 2010








A review by Mary Couzens for EXTRA! EXTRA!

I’d often wandered past the Art Deco building housing this ballroom and wondered what it like was inside. Walking through a small entranceway, we were directed down a flight of stairs to what seemed, at first glance, a narrow hallway, but was really, a smart, slender room lined with leather upholstered wooden booths, before coming to the large, ornate lobby of the building. T shirts and CDs were for sale on a table to our left as we made our way into the rectangular ballroom , with its two huge mirror balls hung high on either side of the stage, stained glass star set in the ceiling and smooth wooden dance floor.  We couldn’t help but wonder if this same ballroom had once housed WWII era dances.

This double bill in vintage Bloomsbury Ballroom featured two dynamic Ethiopian groups, the first - Krar Collective, with their talented leader, Temesegen Tareken, once pupil of renowned vibraphone player Mulatu Astatke of the Heliocentris, on Krar (five or six stringed Ethiopian lyre), vibrant singer/dancer Genet Asefa, and an unnamed but none the less effective drummer. The Collective, who have been known to collaborate with many and varied musicians and sometimes feature as many as four dancers, draw their inspired sound from the traditional music of various regions of Ethiopia, and, render, as they put it, ‘different tribal traditions with a contemporary edge.’ Crowd well warmed up, DJ Jamie Renton spun his (likely) virtual World Music platters enabling drinkers to hit the watering hole, before the increasingly mighty (in terms of numbers, performance and potential) Dub Colossus took to the stage.

The nucleus of Dub Colossus, guitarist/percussionist/ bass/ and master of you name it, Nick “Dubulah” Page, the “Edith Piaf” of Ethiopian song and, champion of Azmari music, Sintayehu 'Mimi' Zenebe, fellow singer Tsedenia Gebremarkos, (winner of a Kora award as the best female singer in East Africa in 2004), master saxophonist/classical composer, Feleke Hailu, piano prodigy Samuel Yirga and singer/messenquo player (one string fiddle) Teremage Woretaw, who carries on the ancient Azmari tradition in his own inimitable way. This vibrant core group was complemented here by a six piece horn section, two drummers – hand and kit and bass player.

On this, the group’s only UK engagement, their set consisted of several popular selections from their album, In A Town Called Addis, (2008), among them, infectious dub tracks ‘Azmari’, ‘Titiza,’  and ‘Entoto Dub’ as well as other Addis favourites ‘Mercato Music’ and ‘Ambassel’. From the group’s remix EP Return to Addis, stunner‘Sima Edy’, intermingled with numbers from their latest EP, Rockers Meets Addis Uptown, a copy of which was given gratis to the first fifty people to enter the doors of Bloomsbury Ballroom that night. As the set simmered to an energizing climax, potential new hits ‘Selemi’, ‘Guragigna’, ‘Medina’ and the group’s own, Ethiopian flavoured take on Anthia and Donna’s 1978 Dub classic ‘Uptown Top Ranking’ kept the largely young crowd swaying, and gingerly dancing, (this being London). All I could think of at that point was how mad they’d go for Dub Colossus back in NYC.

Fans will be well acquainted with the many shimmering facets of singers Mimi and Tsedenia, each of whom have distinctly different voices, both full of dimension, power and at times, playfulness, and the warming input of Hailu’s sultry sax, Dubulah’s electrifying guitar and Woretaw’s plaintive singing and finely attuned Messenquo playing. Yarga’s expressive ethio-jazz piano wove in and out, and over and under this buoyant cacophony of sounds with the seeming ease indicative of inborn talent. The addition of six piece horn section, Horns of Negus, featuring Ben Somers  on tenor and baritone sax, Robert Dowell on trombone and Jonathan Radford on trumpet, as well as other musical surprises from drummer Nick Van Gelder (ex Jamiroquai, Brand New Heavies), bass player Dr Das (ex Asian Dub Foundation), vocalist P J Higgins (Natacha Atlas, Almamegretta, Kenneth Bager) and conga player Ramjac, combined made the resulting sound of the group a fuller, more full-bodied experience, reminiscent of, as they say, ‘the sultry clubs and pounding dancehalls of Addis Ababa.’ Mimi and Tsedenia’s shoulder movements were palely echoed by female fans in the audience, though other dance manoeuvres were purely Ethiopian and, out of our can. Both singers are so personable and enthusiastic onstage, (not to mention talented) that it seems inappropriate to refer to them by their surnames here.

Dub Colossus has never been known to disappoint in any of their many and spirited live performances at WOMAD or anywhere else, and despite its’ occasional sound glitches, this exclusive, one off London gig in suitably classic surroundings was no exception. In March 2011 the group’s new album, Addis Through The Looking Glass will be released, so before too long there will, no doubt, be another opportunity to see Dub Colossus live. We’ll look forward to it.



Sintayehu 'Mimi' Zenebe of Dub Colossus at Bloomsbury Ballroom Nov. 10, 2010

Photo (c) York Tillyer

Bloomsbury Ballroom
Victoria House, 37-63 Bloomsbury Square, Holborn, London WC1B





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