Electrifying the music Scene
Ethiopian Records has been a pioneer in Addis Ababa’s electronic music scene for several years. Starting out as an underground artist creating experimental sounds that mainstream audiences are now only growing accustomed to; Ethiopian Records is used to being ahead of the curve.
Also known as Endeguena Mulu, he first released three records under the label 1432R, the first iterations of what he has come to call Ethiopiawi Electronics. These tracks were a sign of how Ethiopian Records was working towards an experimental amalgamation of traditional Ethiopian sounds and ethereal electronic beats with a message of black liberation and solidarity.
“The purpose of my music is multiple folds. First and foremost, music for me is something very personal, it is part of my daily life, and it is part of who I am as a human being. It is also something I use to push boundaries, boundaries of my own sense of what music is, of how it is made and of the conventional ways of music making. My core is traditional music.”
Taking elements of traditional music has enlightened Endeguena to the politics of sound across the globe. He is inspired by pan-African and post-colonial politics, and revolutionaries like Thomas Sankara, Walter Rodney, Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkurmah, Amilcar Cabral, the American civil right activist and revolutionary socialist Fred Hampton, Chilean teacher, singer-songwriter and political activist, Victor Jara.
“Music isn’t just music, art isn’t just art; it is how you shape a society. It is how you shape power and states of mind. Starting from the business side of it, what I have learned is that on the global stage, every infrastructure out there is made to facilitate music from the west to strive, which is great for the west but intentionally or unintentionally, that same infrastructure exploits, undermines, cuts short, fetishizes and appropriates music from what the West itself calls ‘the global south’. The scales are tilted completely in westerners favor, marketing wise, economy wise, and in every other way. The lack of infrastructure and support, the lack of diversity of music locally, pushes young people to craft their music and art, after the western world. So, basically, everyone else around the world is forced to assimilate to western culture, water down their culture to accommodate a global music and art that otherwise either ignores or segregates you in corners such as ‘world music’. Even though we are seeing shifts in west Africa and some other parts of the world, where young people are reclaiming their space and their cultures' space on the global stage, those shifts in my opinion are happening too slowly and aren’t significant enough.”
These plans of decolonizing music are currently taking form in Ethiopian Record’s upcoming double EP Wel. “Wel means in common, the commons, or ye gara. I chose that title years ago after having remixed and sampled Gash Tsegaye’s poem Aba Geda countless times, in my live sets and in a few tracks.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has hampered the production of this EP which led to a crowd funding campaign to finance this musical project and the last 6 months were spent in long hours of production. With pandemic restrictions eliminating live performance events, Endeguena spends almost the entire day recording and producing without interruptions. He also hosts a radio show on Sheger FM called No Requests.
The crowd funding campaign was launched by WAG, based in Addis. The goal of WAG is to build a record label with a self-sustaining creative, studio space called, GODJO. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has foiled these plans and with this crowd funding campaign, they are hoping to rebuild and gain momentum.
With funds from the campaign, ER is hoping to compensate vocalists, musicians, sound engineers and editors, filmmakers, animators, painters, producers, and graphic designers, for their work and purchase the necessary equipment for the in-house production and post-production as well as enable collaborations with artists from outside Addis Ababa, including rural Ethiopia and across the African continent.
“Our own local music scene that has no patron, no significant professional infrastructure support, is focused on very few possibilities of what the music of our country and our corner of the world could be. We have a gold mine of cultures on our hands and we aren’t giving those cultures and those people the space, the support or the freedom of imagination to grow into things that haven’t existed before. We are not giving each other the room to be more than we are today, to create things that have nothing to do with the western frame of mind.”