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Erin MacLeod

Montreal, Quebec

Erin MacLeod has a PhD in communications from McGill University and is presently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of the West Indies. Her research interests lie in the relationship between Jamaica and Ethiopia, Rastafari and Jamaican music in Africa and the connections between Africa and the African diaspora. She has written about music and popular culture for the Toronto Star, Montreal Mirror and Pitchfork, among others.

 

Abstract:

"'Layers and layers of not-so-dope synths': Listening to the Music of Addis Ababa"

In a recent Fader column, record-label head and African music affectionado Benjamin Lebrave spoke of a recent trip to Addis Ababa. He had become enamoured with a particular tune with a particular synthy sound. After a week in the city, he was disappointed, finding the music either equally as synthy but “not-as-dope”, traditional, or representative of a long-past jazz period. He left frustrated.

But frustration is Addis Ababa. The city is one that demands a renewed listening ear. For Western listeners, the pentatonic backbone of much Ethiopian popular music sounds awkward and grating, especially when played on a tinny synth. Traditional instruments like the masinquo and krar accompany jerky, difficult dance moves. And though Ethio-jazz, made famous outside of Ethiopia by Mulatu Astetke, is more comfortable listening, it is representative of the sound of Ethiopia during the end of Haile Selassie’s reign—the late 1960s and early 1970s.

There are “layers and layers” of music in Addis. Like the city, its music is a complex web of old and new, serious and playful, discordant and harmonious. Addis challenges the notion of metropolis as it also challenges the notion of contemporary popular music.

This paper will take a sonic trip to and through Addis Ababa, looking at the tensions between the traditional and the modern. From the music shops of the merkato that blast Amharic pop and Celine Dion in equal measures, to the Azmari bets where stories, songs and insults are served up alongside folk dancing by traditional performers and musicians called “azmaris”, to the new generation of musicians that are playing around with bits and bobs of Ethio-jazz, Addis Ababa redefines “dope”.

Thursday, April 26
 

2:00pm PDT

Hip-Hop For and By Women Learning LabsAmy Coddington • Del Cowie • Nate Patrin • Oliver Wang

3:45pm PDT

5:45pm PDT

7:15pm PDT

 
Friday, April 27
 

9:00am PDT

11:15am PDT

1:45pm PDT

3:30pm PDT

5:45pm PDT

 
Saturday, April 28
 

11:15am PDT

1:45pm PDT

3:30pm PDT

5:45pm PDT

 
Sunday, April 29
 

9:00am PDT

11:15am PDT