Wudasse was born out of the desire of three Ethiopian musicians to express the beauty and grace of Ethiopian music through the language of Jazz. This first offering is unique in several ways. For one, the all the songs on the album were recorded in front of a live audience, which is a rarity in Ethiopian music circles. And then there is the make up of the band, three Ethiopians and two American musicians, brought together by circumstance and their love of music, doing their best to create music they love even under the roughest of circumstances.
So how did it all begin? Well, four years ago Teferi (drums) visits Jorga (saxophone) in Atlanta to attend Fasil’s (bass) wedding. While staying at Jorga’s house, the two rent a drum set and start experimenting and jamming on Ethiopian rhythms and scales. In fact, it turned out that both Jorga and Teferi had similar ideas on how to respectfully adapt Ethiopian scales and rhythms to fit into a Jazz context. Teferi goes back to California, and Fasil and Jorga start performing together in local clubs. Two years later, Teferi joins them in Atlanta and Wudasse was born.
Much can also be said about the music creation process. Each band member was equally responsible for the final sound and feel of each song. In fact, most of the songs were arranged with minimal conversation and direction, and all the songs evolved while being repeatedly performed around several Atlanta jazz clubs. Although a lot can be said about each piece on the album, we think the Tigrinya based “aba gerima"deserves special attention. The song starts with Jorga on the keyboard imitating the sounds of the Embilta, a long thin horn that can only produce a few notes. In the Tigray region of Ethiopia, the Embilta is played in an ensemble format by three or more players. Each player is responsible for two or three notes, and therefore has to really listen to his partners to create on cohesive melodic idea. What you hear at the beginning of the song is the keyboard trying to create that infectious Embilta vibe. This vibe is present through out the music true to the original Embilta playing style of the Tigray people. The rhythm played by Teferi on the drums demonstrates the kind of respect and study he has dedicated to Ethiopian rhythms. Teferi respectfully transfers the Guayla rhythm to the modern drum set while at the same time keeping a killer grove underneath the Embilta. And then there is Fasil who is anchoring the whole thing down with his deep grooves. However the song is not complete without Dale Saunders playing the mournful yet meditative melody on his guitar, and Asa (the fish) adding the finishing touches to the rhythm on percussion. Now imagine the song being developed without any conversation or direction from anyone. It is true! It can be said that the song was waiting to be born and all it needed was for the five Wudasse members to be midwives.
The other songs are as equally fascinating. "Ete mete" represents the children song which naturally modulates rhythmically from 6/8 to 7/4. “megemeria” starts with a slow grove that builds to represent the best of Ethiopian jazz-rock-fusion. “deleqa” is an experiment in approaching the 6/8 Chikchika rhythm in 7/4 time. But this might not mean much to all the non-musician music lovers who wouldn’t care less is the song was in 6/2 or 7/8 as long as it grooves hard the touches the soul.
We hope you enjoy listening to the music as much as we enjoyed creating it. We thank the Master Creator for the universe and all that is in it. We would like to thank all our families for the love and sacrifice they paid for our love (and sometimes obsession) for music. We thank Queen of Sheba Restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia for supporting the band and its music for an entire year, even when the band members on stage out numbered the number of people in the audience. We thank the Five Spots Club in Little Five Points, Atlanta for offering us such a great performing space and for giving us these priceless recordings of our bands sound. And we thank you for buying this CD and supporting Ethiopian musicians and Ethiopian music.