Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Recording: Hailu Mergia

Artist: Hailu Mergia

Songs: three unknown songs*

Recorded at Jam Factory (TONE Festival – Show #5), June 21, 2017.

Hailu Mergia - unknown #1

Hailu Mergia - unknown #2

Hailu Mergia - unknown #3

Although the local "jazz" festival is anticipated in some quarters, it seemed that too often there was no home there for adventurous and experimental creators. Thus, out of necessity, the TONE Festival was born to give these touring musicians a chance to connect with local audiences and artists. A collaboration between Burn Down the Capital's Tad Michalak, Ron Gaskin (a.k.a. Rough Idea) and Karen Ng and Daniel Pencer, the goal was to create shows that were rewarding for players and listeners alike. The second tentpole showcase of the festival, this brought out a packed house to the Jam Factory, with plenty of folks on hand who might not have come in contact with TONE otherwise. (And interestingly, they didn't all look like the sort of patrons who were about to dash off to go to Electric Eclectics, the show's other co-presenter.)

The crowd seemed especially eager to see ex-Walias Band keyboardist Hailu Mergia, who has found a new audience of admirers recently thanks to Awesome Tapes From Africa's reissues of his classic material. Backed by a bass and drumkit rhythm section, it actually took a while for everything to come together here — there were some sound problems at the outset, and he couldn't get a satisfactory accordion sound before apparently giving up on it and just playing keyboards. There were even a couple mid-set excursions into organ trio "mood" territory before things really got going. But once the music got cooking, this was quite fabulous — one could sense the band was feeling more comfortable once Mergia started to feel moved enough to spring up from behind his keybs to dance a bit and get the crowd clapping.

* Does anyone know the titles to any of these? Please leave a comment!

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