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Zion Roots

4.8 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Audio CD, December 9, 2003
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Editorial Reviews

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Anyone enthralled by the sprawling Ethiopiques series on Buda Musique may find a fascinating if unintentional addition to that series in Abyssinia Infinite's Zion Roots. Whereas the Ethiopiques series lovingly compiles far-flung tracks recorded during the "golden age" of the Ethiopian record industry in the early to mid-1970s, Zion Roots is an illustration of the astounding creativity and life still coursing through modern Ethiopian music. Although Abyssinia Infinite boasts a cast of Ethiopian musicians alongside producer Bill Laswell (heard here on acoustic guitar) and some of his frequent collaborators like percussionists Karsh Kale and Aiyb Dieng and accordionist Tony Cedras, this is essentially the second album by Gigi, the Ethiopian singer with an overworldly voice whose self-titled debut featured her alongside such jazz heavyweights as Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter. Fans of a more traditional Ethiopian or world-beat sound may be pleased to discover that "Zion Roots" is a much more organic-sounding recording than was that album or its Bill Laswell remix, Illuminated Audio. While there are some modern production elements here that bear Laswell's stamp, like backwards acoustic guitar effects and layered keyboards, for the most part this is acoustic trance music that never loses its connection to the traditional songs--in some cases hundreds of years old--Gigi sings here in new arrangements. On tracks like "Gela," which features a mesmerizing kirar (an ancient Ethiopian harp) pattern, the richly percussive "Gedawo" or the entrancing hymn "Ethiopia" that closes the album, Gigi proves that Ethiopian music has a bright future as well as a rich past. --Ezra Gale
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (December 9, 2003)
  • Original Release Date: 2000
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Network
  • ASIN: B0000CC623
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #160,785 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By nadav haber on March 27, 2004
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Gigi's long awaited new album has not failed its promise. This new cd follows the same general lines of her previous album, with less jazz-fusion touches and more traditional Ethiopian sound.
To this album Gigi brought several different Ethiopian rhythms. There is a song with a touch of Guragegnya (Embe Asheferegne), and an Agaw song (Monew Natana). Other than that, Gig sticks to Amhara based music, with the two catchiest Ethiopian scales (Bati and Tizita). There are, of course, touches of funk that probably come from Bill Laswell.
It is interesting to compare this music, aimed at world music market, with music that is being aimed at Ethiopians more exclusively. While Gigi's music is very rhythmic, it is not dance music, while practically all music that is produced for the Ethiopian market is dance music.
Gigi's great contribution is that her work offers the highest standards of production - in sound, arrangement and instrumentation. She thus opens the way for Ethiopian musicians to the broader world market, and brings the Ethiopian sounds to many fresh, non-Ethiopian ears.
Gigi has an average voice in the traditional Ethiopian sense, but her voice is perfect for the setting that the album offers. It is sensual and reflective, and allows the general "world" mood that is required. The playing of the other musicians on this cd is amazing, from the traditional Kirar and washint to the more modern saxophone. The tenor sax is played by Moges Habte, who is, in my opinion, the leading Ethiopian sax player today, and deserves greater exposure.
My favorite track is the last, "Ethiopia", that features a beautiful, haunting loop behind Gigi's best singing.
This cd is essential for anyone interested in Ethiopian music, world music, or just good music that feels great.
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Format: Audio CD
This is really Bill Lasswell at the top of his game. Of course the stars of the album are Gigi and the wonderful musicians. This is truly beautiful music, intriguingly presented , heavy on traditional acoustic instruments. Gigi's voice is truly superb as others have noted; she manages to instill these songs (a collection of traditional and Gigi-composed tunes) with an amazing interplay of inspirational religiosity, atmospheric exoticism, and certainly, sentient eroticism as well. At the same time, it's manifestly Ethiopian and African. What more could you want? Gigi is an amazing performer (I've seen her live) and this album effectively captures her ethereal and cretive artistry and musicianship. Defiinitely a very appealing album for hard core African music fans; the haunting saxophones and accordion are great as are the rhythms and beats. Meaningful lyrics to boot (summaries provided).
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Format: Audio CD
What with the album title and all, you'd be forgiven for thinking this was a reggae album, but back in Ethiopia, they actually take that whole Land of Zion thing pretty literally. But no, this isn't another rasta lovefest -- rather, it's a quite lovely, subtly textured and dreamalicious Bill Laswell-produced project which picks up where Ethiopian pop pioneers such as Mahmoud Ahmed left off. Singer Ejigayehu "Gigi" Shibabaw has a lovely voice, and her smooth style stands in welcome contrast to the normal shrillness of much of the older, classic Ethiopian pop and traditional recordings. The soundscape here is spacy, hypnotic and amorphous, akin to Sheila Chandra or Natacha Atlas in their mellower moments; although lushly produced, the album doesn't lapse into outright trip-hop -- unlike previous Gigi/Laswell collaaborations, this disc always retains a distinctively local sound. Fans of the fabled "ETHIOPIQUES" series will definitely want to check this disc out to get a sense of where that style has gone, and anyone looking for some relaxing yet substantive world music will like this as well.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Gigi (Ejigayehu Shibabaw) and Bill Laswell have carved out a unique and wonderful niche: Ethiopian jazz. In the 1960s, Ethiopian traditional music was infused with funk, and for a decade its music scene flourished in dance clubs. Since then, after internal strife and wars, Ethiopians and Eriteans are in diaspora, taking with them their music. Many have gone the pop path, some have maintained their traditions, but as the album Gigi and this later album demonstrate, jazz and world fusion are a fertile approach. This music swings; it also induces trance, as many tracks are ritualistic. It keeps its heart in tradition with Ethiopian instruments--the washint flute, the kirar harp--and the popular accordion and saxophones and guitars, plus keyboards and various percussion and clapping. The arrangements are outstanding, full of vitality and charm, such as Track 3, Alesma. Gigi sings in Amharic and the older language Agewña. Many of the tracks are spiritual or romantically rooted to the land, others dance in the sky. Four are traditional tunes; Shibabawa wrote the remaining six. The sound engineering is first rate. This beautiful, heart-felt music will open your ears and cast your eyes to the horn of Africa to ancient, Biblical Abyssinia. 53 minutes.
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Format: Audio CD
Anything Gigi touches turns to gold. She could sing the alphabet backwards and it would sound good. As the liner notes will tell you, this is a "concept album" with a more classical or traditional Ethiopian sound (call and response singing phrases, traditional instruments like the washint [flute], and more acoustics). Four of the 10 songs are traditional, the others were written by Gigi. Like Gigi's last two albums, this one is also in collaboration with Bill Laswell.
This is a beautiful album with more great singing from the excellent Gigi Shibabaw, good musicianship from Ethiopian musicians, very relaxing music. Check out Gigi's other albums as well.
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