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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.

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D.C. Has A New Electronic Music Label: 1432 R

1432R001 Yarada Lij Square Art

Yarada Lij,” a four-song EP from Ethiopia’s Mikael Seifu, will be the first release on 1432 R by Ally Schweitzer

For a couple of years, Subterranean A was one of D.C.’s best-curated DIY venues. Or at least that’s the case I made in a 2012 story I wrote for Washington City Paper, which ran not long before the basement space hosted its last official show. Now, Subterranean A lives once more—but through a new record label, 1432 R, which borrows its name from the venue’s old address.

DJ and producer Sami Yenigun is one of the label’s founders. He and former Subterranean A residents Eric Tilden, Joyce Lim, and friend Dawit Eklund—who makes music with Yenigun as aLamont—started the imprint as a means “to explore our own sound,” Yenigun writes in an email. “Joyce, Eric, and I started saving up money, Dawit started getting crazy in the lab, and it all took off from there.”

But the label’s debut release—heard for the first time on the Fader this week—comes from an artist with no official tie to Subterranean A. He’s an Ethiopia-based producer named Mikael Seifu, and he’s a good pal of Eklund, Yenigun writes. “Dawit and I have been listening to his stuff for a while now, and when the label started up, we just knew we had to get him on board. He’s one of these people who has been honing his craft for years, but has never released any of it.”

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