Review | Songlines

Entoto Band

Top of the World

Rating: ★★★★

View album and artist details

Album and Artist Details


Entoto Band


Guitar Globetrotter Recordings


Entoto Band are a Netherlands-based group directed by guitarist Joep Pelt and fronted by Ethiopian singer Helen Mengestu and Eritrean saxophonist and singer Amanyal ‘Million’ Tewelde. Like so many modern Ethio-jazz groups, they are clearly heavily inspired by the classic, timeless Swinging Addis-era sounds, the pentatonic melody lines and loping rhythms. But Entoto Band make those styles their own with layers of heavy, dirty funk (powered by Hammond organ and a meaty synth bass) and subtle references to Cuban music, soul, dub, Afrobeat and even house music, as well as modern Habesha pop.

The use of instrumentation is particularly impressive. The six-piece deftly use multitracking (multiple synth parts at once; Amanyal's saxophone and synth-aerophone lines becoming a whole horn section) without taking away from any individual's effort – everyone gets a chance to shine. The rhythm section of synths-drums-percussion is tight, and grooves hard, with enough space for the fireworks of whoever is stepping to the plate next.

Entoto Band's debut record really serves to underline just how epochal the original Ethio-jazz scene was, and how flexible that style can be, that it can still sound so fresh and exciting in so many different contexts while remaining immediately recognisable

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