RA.754 Ethiopian Records

A rousing and humbling anti-war mix from Ethiopia’s electronic music hero.

Endeguena Mulu subtitled his RA Podcast “war is a racket.” Just days before he was due to send his submission in, he scrapped and remade the mix in the wake of what looks like a a burgeoning civil war in his home country of Ethiopia. Following an attack on a camp housing federal Ethiopian military troops in northern Tigray state attributed to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front—the political party and militia that ruled Ethiopia with an iron fist until 2018—the government sent troops to the semi-autonomous region and announced a six-month state of emergency. There are reports of mass killings blamed on the TPLF, while the state has been cut off from telecommunications as people have started to flee across the border amid fears of a new war. Mulu has been a vocal critic of both sides of the conflict, authoring several posts decrying the conflict as well as Ethiopia’s allies who have historically ignored the TPLF’s long and well-documented history of repression, human rights abuses and atrocities. So his new mix comes with a theme and a purpose. It’s defiant, mournful and filled with hope all at once: alongside the Ethiopiyawi electronic that Mulu has helped pioneer, there’s Digital Mystikz’ classic dubstep anthem “Anti-War Dub,” UK funky fusion from KG and rousing speeches from figures and leaders around Africa. It was made in Ableton on-the-fly like one of his live sets, incorporating samples along the way into a set that feels more emotional than functional, leading you from one heavy—and sometimes uplifting—feeling to the next. The specific circumstances of this mix shouldn’t take away from Mulu’s long and impressive record. He’s the originator of Ethiopiyawi electronic music, a hybridized strain of electronic music that doesn’t have a particular sound so much as it has a mission: to create new music from the incredibly rich and varied traditions of Ethiopia, from instruments whose histories go back thousands of years to the heritage of 20th-century Ethiopian jazz. It doesn’t even have to be electronic, necessarily, and Mulu’s output as Ethiopian Records—for labels like 1432 R and Warp’s Arcola offshoot—have been restless and inspiring. He’s not just the driving force for electronic music in Ethiopia, but an important and unique artist in a wider global, context too.

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