Ethiopian music is weird, in a good way. Imagine American jazz and/or funk from the '60s and '70s, along with African popular musics such as highlife and juju, filtered through Arabic musical scales and a melody-is-the-groove sensibility. If you've ever listened to music over a short-wave radio when frequency drift occurs and the pitch of the music alters back and forth between what it "should" sound like to something else, well, it can sound like that.
If the above sounds at all appealing to you, then take a chance on this disc. This anthology is a decent sample of music ranging from the "golden age" of Ethiopian music (1969-1978)--exhaustively and admirably covered by the multi-volume Ethiopiques series--to the present. There are no examples of jazz, which is this collection's one shortcoming as a survey; once upon a time, at least, Ethiopian jazz was as prominent as the more pop-oriented music on this disc. Hence the one-star docking. An accompanying booklet provides a brief overview of Ethiopian music and short biographies of the performers represented--always nice to have as additional orientation in a perhaps-unfamiliar musical landscape.
Also included is a bonus disc by a group of musicians now living in Europe called Invisible System; it's more dub and hip-hop in form but still sounding "Ethiopian." Whatever that means.
As with most all the Rough Guide discs I own, this one is a good place to start for exploring this fascinating music. If you like this, then I highly recommend you spring for the 2-CD The Very Best of Ethiopiques. Its focus is on music from the "golden age," but it includes jazz along with the pop and funk selections; moreover, a few of the artists on the Rough Guides disc also appear on the Ethiopiques disc. Enjoy!