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Guzo

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Product details

  • Audio CD (4 May 2015)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Real World Records
  • ASIN: B007X93H6A
  • Other Editions: Audio CD |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 175,633 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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Product description

Product Description

Debut solo album from Dub Colossus' Samuel Yirga inspired by his Ethiopian roots, American jazz (particularly Keith Jarrett and Herbie Hancock), Latin, and classical music. Features guest vocals from the Creole Choir of Cuba, Mel Gara, a British singer whose origins are in Iraq; and Nicolette, a Nigerian-British singer, famous for her collaborations with Massive Attack. Samuel Yirga knows a thing or two about determination and overcoming obstacles. As a child and teenager growing up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, all he dreamt about was becoming a musician. His parents were strictly against this and wanted him to study to become a doctor or engineer. When they forbid him to attend music school auditions his sister luckily helped him to sneak out. Aged 16 at the time, Samuel stepped into Addis Ababa's Yared School of Music for his auditions never having actually touched a musical instrument in his life. He managed to pass his entry exam regardless - with a coin tapping out rhythms on the top of a piano! Once he was admitted he picked the piano as his instrument to study - but the head of department took one look at his hands and said it wasn't possible. "She said my hands were too small," Samuel explains. But he persevered; he was determined that he was going to be the best pianist in Ethiopia. Despite still being in his 20s and only having left music school relatively recently, Samuel has developed at a pace, both as a player and a composer, remarkable for someone of his age. He has gone on to become one of Ethiopia's most promising young musicians and in recent years, Samuel has gained wider international recognition through his touring and recording with Ethio-fusion group Dub Colossus. 'Guzo', which means "journey" in Amharic, is Samuel's debut solo album (out on Real World Records on 9 July). Recorded partly in Addis Ababa and partly in the UK at Real World Studios, it is the product of his years experimenting with the music of his roots and the outside influences of American jazz (particularly Keith Jarrett and Herbie Hancock), Latin, and classical music. It explores the traditional musical history of Ethiopia, the more modern Ethiojazz that has brought his country's music to international attention, ventures into big-band brass ensembles, moves through soul and funk, and then simmers with the deeply impassioned solo piano tracks. Whilst the solo piano pieces are introspective and deeply felt, Samuel has enlisted some great singers and instrumentalists from Ethiopia, Europe and the Caribbean. Featured vocalists are the Creole Choir of Cuba, a Cuban choir whose songs go back to their Haitian roots; Mel Gara, a British singer whose origins are in Iraq; and Nicolette, a Nigerian-British singer, famous for her collaborations with Massive Attack. "His world is opening up," says Dubulah (aka Nick Page), the British musician and producer behind Transglobal Underground, Syriana and Dub Colossus and also producer of 'Guzo', "He's feeling his way around and this recording is a statement of where he's intending to go and what he has to offer. I think the result will surprise people." 'Guzo' is both bold and sensitive. It is the start of Samuel Yirga's musical journey and a platform to showcase the extraordinary skill as both musician and composer of this emerging young talent. The album's roots might be firmly in the Ethiojazz of Samuel's homeland, but this young man from Addis has opened up a whole new door on a musical genre and region.

BBC Review

Some albums take a while to get to know properly, as the listener adjusts to unfamiliar terrain. Guzo, the debut set by Ethiopian pianist Samuel Yirga, is such a set.

Much of the album unfolds slowly, opening up spaces for quiet contemplation, making use of a variety of styles, each of which conjures its own mood. This is the kind of record that you need to pay attention to in order to navigate properly. It is not background music, nor a blasting party sound; it works better in a twilight setting, the listener in meditative mode.

Yirga is best known as the keyboardist with Dub Colossus, the hybrid project put together by Nick ‘Count Dubulah’ Page, joining Ethiopian players with musicians based in Britain. On stage with DC, Yirga tends to be in the background, his instrument almost lost in the mix.

But those fortunate enough to catch his solo performances in Britain in 2010 will know that the young man has impressive talent. In the foyer of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, he was a wizard on 88 keys, conjuring his own rhythms on the ivories and drawing a range of emotions from a whirlwind of melodies.

As this album was cut between Ethiopia and Britain, it’s a hybrid that comes over as a jazz album with Ethiopian leanings, rather than fully-fledged Ethio-jazz. Opening number Abet Abet has a mournful kebero behind Yirga’s broody clavinet and Dubulah’s bouncing bass. Tiwista is a pensive piece that would not have sounded out of place on a Don Cherry album.

Ye Bati Koyita and Dance With the Legend are unadorned piano musings, while Firma Ena Wereket and the Latinesque My Head use a fuller Ethio-jazz-like ensemble. A cover of Rotary Connection’s psychedelic soul epic I Am the Black Gold of the Sun features The Creole Choir of Cuba, and although the collaboration initially worries, the track works surprisingly well.

In short, this is an impressive debut album that attests to the originality and expressiveness of its author.

--Chris Parkin

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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars 8 reviews
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4.0 out of 5 starsThe Colorful Palette of Samuel Yirga
on 29 May 2013 - Published on Amazon.com
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5.0 out of 5 starsFavorite album I've heard all year!
on 4 December 2013 - Published on Amazon.com
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5.0 out of 5 starsBeautiful Ethiopian jazz album
on 22 November 2012 - Published on Amazon.com
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5.0 out of 5 starsAwesome
on 22 February 2014 - Published on Amazon.com
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5.0 out of 5 starsAmazing musical journey!
on 4 February 2014 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD|Verified Purchase


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