Inspiration Information, Vol. 3 – Mulatu Astatke and The Heliocentrics

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By Bryan Covet

Having recorded the majority of the album over the span of a single week in September 2008 at the Quatermass studio in East London, known primarily as an analogue HQ, Mulatu Astatke and The Heliocentrics have turned out an expansive display of traditional Ethiopian music with an infinite amount of new school flavor.
With the ever growing respect and enthusiasm this generation has to all that is old school, certain musicians that never really received the spotlight they so deserved in their era are getting another go at it with the rejuvenated interest in vinyl and in virtually untouched classics of the past. Mulatu Astatke is definitely one giant that falls into this list. Coined as the godfather of Ethio-Jazz, Astatke was the born in western Ethiopia in 1943, where he went on to polish his musical talents across the world; Astatke holds the honor of being the first African student to attend Berklee College of Music. His reemergence can also be heavily attributed to his music having been featured in the Jim Jarmusch film Broken Flowers, circa 2005.

Inspiration Information was set up to be a sort of experiment in formulas set to mesh Helio’s future-funk grooves with the traditional melodies of Ethio-Jazz.

At first glance the album sets you up for a sort of A Love Supreme mood, soft piano keys rolling around the track with classic Blue Note ambiance. Shortly there after one is soon derailed and slowly taken on a vocal study of Ethiopian tribal chants steadily leading to the U.K.’s Questlove, Malcom Catto and his signature neck breaking drums. All that being said, you are only about two minutes into the album. The feeling I repeatedly kept coming to was, “Wow, so this it was Mancini would have sounded like with some real groove behind him.” This album could easily score any of the old caper films from back in the 50s and 60s: cue the cocktail party, the job, the chase, etc.

These musicians undoubtedly went on a journey unlike none other they had experienced and they did an exceptional job in capturing the experience for all to take part in, leaving a lasting impression of a completed piece of work. Like Coltrane said there are only two kinds of music, “good and bad”. I’ll let you be the judge.