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How Ethiopian Records is shaping the sound of a genre with NI tools

Ethiopiyawi Electronic originator Endeguena Mulu on using TRAKTOR in the studio, sampling traditional instruments, and developing Ethiopia’s next generation of artists.

Based in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, Endeguena Mulu has spent the last two decades reshaping the sound of African electronic music, pioneering the genre of Ethiopiyawi Electronic with help from fellow artist Mikael Seifu. More than a representation of dubstep-influenced electronica and Ethiopian folk, Ethiopiyawi Electronic is an ethos that embraces culture, community and diversity through the prism of technological collaboration.

Behind Mulu’s stage name, Ethiopian Records, is a strong sense of inclusivity. The now experienced producer first started making music in high school using rudimentary software – a routine that soon became a daily addiction leading to his debut EP Qen Sew (For My Father) in 2015; an experimental release combining the sound of Ethiopian Azmari hymns and sample-based beats and instrumentation.

Further EPs followed, from the free-flowing Letu Sinega to In My Sleep and Ye Feqer Edaye, employing samples culled from the African jazz scene and bonded by Mulu’s fluid cut and paste approach to production. In Ethiopia, where the cost of modern technology is prohibitive, the availability of affordable music software – including that from NI – has had far-reaching consequences for the region’s budding producers.

Mulu himself relies on NI tools not only to create his own music, but also to facilitate Addis Ababa’s WAG entertainment agency, which he co-founded in order to provide support to the next generation of up-and-coming African musicians. However, due to the ongoing pandemic and recent political unrest in the region, the project is now fighting for survival.


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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.

Read more on Resident Advisor.

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How a small D.C. record label became a hotbed of modern Ethiopian Sounds

1432R001 Yarada Lij Square Art
photo of 1432R001 A side label

Originally in the Washington Post by Chris Kelly

In its first two years, D.C.-based record label 1432 R has stood out for its ethos and its ear, but also for a more curious reason. Even though 1432 R takes its name from a District street address, its catalogue is dominated by music from more than 7,000 miles away — Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Launched in summer 2014, 1432 R has released nine records, almost all featuring Addis Ababa-based producers Mikael Seifu and Endeguena Mulu; one is by Ethiopian American co-founder Dawit Eklund. Their music seamlessly brings together house music grooves, the stutter of U.K. garage, an uneasy electronic ambience, and — perhaps most notably — Ethiopian folk music.

“Ethiopian music is super distinct,” Eklund, 26, says. “There are only four or five musical scales that they play in; each has its own meaning and attitude and mood.” What has caught the attention of listeners around the world is how they are “drawing from this classical and traditional sound and coupling it with electronic sounds,” crafting music that is unique, inventive and emotionally resonant.

READ MORE on the Washington Post

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Lose Yourself In Ethiopian Records’ New East African Mixtape

Addis Ababa-based electronic beatmaker Endeguena Mulu releases a stockpile of new music.

Ethiopian Records—the alias of Addis Ababa-based experimental musician Endeguena Mulu(a.k.a E.R.)—delivers all-new music.

E.R. is the visionary behind the ‘Ethiopiyawi’ genre coming out of East Africa. And as the instrumentalist has done previously, Mulu penned a statement to accompany his sonic odyssey— in it, he admits the night scene where he’s built his persona isn’t his true comfort zone, and urges listeners of his playlist to avoid “enclav[ing] yourselves in one culture, one perspective, expectations, stereotypes and labels — whatever your culture and perspective might be.”

Mashing up Ethiopian folk, jazz elements, obscure vocal samples and electronica, E.R. says he meditated on the “chains one puts on oneself in order to fulfill expectations” while producing the mix.

The Boiler Room release is the genre-bending beatmaker’s way of expressing his gratitude to his listeners who grant him creative levity within the club scene. “To all those that have let me and other performers play, share, produce and release — thank you for trusting my/our spirit(s).”

Read more on OkayAfrica.

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Ethiopian Records Shares Genre-Bending EP ‘In My Sleep’

Addis Adaba-based producer Endeguena Mulu aka Ethiopian Records releases his booming new experimental EP “In My Sleep”.

Ethiopian Records – the production moniker of Addis Ababa-based musician  Endeguena Mulu – releases his latest EP In My Sleep, a seamless blend of traditional Ethiopian folk music and elements of jazz, electronic sounds and UK garage. In My Sleep is the first of a two-part project that the visionary beatmaker will release this year. The EP, which has been a decade in the making, sees the artists showcasing his intricate production skills as he artfully mixes booming percussion with staticky strings and vocal samples.

E.R. is one of the architects of the ‘Ethiopiyawi’ electronic genre, but he’s careful not to limit his sound by overwhelming it with labels; he penned a personal statement where he urged listeners to look past labels when seeking out new music, “forget about all the labels even if you found the music you are listening to through passing by in this or that section in the music store. Just forget about where you found it. Close your eyes and absorb yourself in the moment. Listen, truly listen, and try to feel what the music is doing to you. If you are able to do that then maybe, maybe you are able to release the taint of those narrow labels and connect with the work with the piece of music, like you should.” Stream In My Sleep below, and be on the look-out for the second half of his project to drop in October.

Read more on OkayAfrica.

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Get lost in Mikael Seifu’s 13-minute electronic epic, ‘Brass’

The Ethiopian producer releases his latest single.

Addis Ababa-based electronic musician Mikael Seifu continues his run of impressive releases for DC’s 1432 R imprint with his latest digital single, ‘The Lost Drum Beat’.

Unlike the dance-floor-ready A-side — with its frenetic, garage-laced percussion — B-side ‘Brass’ is meditative and deliberate, gradually building over a series of movements. What begins as a fidgety electronic composition adds a loping beat, an electric solo and bits of Ethiopian folk and jazz before reaching its climax; its woozy come-down is longer that most tracks.

Read more on Fact.