Rockers Meet Addis Uptown
Dub Colossus, 2011
"Uptown Top Ranking," written and performed by Jamaican girl duo Althea & Donna, topped the UK singles chart in 1978. "It had a big effect on me," explains Nick Page aka Dubulah, British producer and multi-instrumentalist (guitars, percussion, fx, bass, harmonica, organ), "seeing it on Top Of The Pops...it was a first in many ways."
The connection between Ethiopia and Jamaica has been well-documented, especially with regard to the lyrical content of a lot of Jamaican roots reggae music -- and in 2011 Dubulah's Ethiopian outfit Dub Colossus released their an Anglo-Amharic version of the classic "Uptown Top Ranking" tune -- in a dread Habesha stylee -- fronted by female Ethiopian singers Sintayehu "Mimi" Zenebe and Tsedenia Gebremarkos, with UK/Jamaican guest MC PJ Higgins.
Dubulah, also a founding member of Transglobal Underground and Syriana, first travelled to Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa in 2006 to collaborate with musicians and explore traditional Azmari styles, 60s Ethiopian pop, Ethiojazz, and 70s Jamaican Dub Reggae. There he came across some amazingly talented artists: vocalists Tsedenia Gebremarkos and Sintayehu "Mimi" Zenebe, young Ethiojazz pianist Samuel Yirga, tenor sax player Feleke Hailu, and traditional singer Teremage Woretaw on messenqo (one-string fiddle) and vocals. Dub Colossus was born.
"Uptown Top Ranking" is featured on Rockers Meet Addis Uptown, a limited edition EP comprised of five tracks (all produced by Dubulah), two of which are exclusive to the EP. Apart from "Uptown Top Ranking," featured both as radio edit and full mix, there is "Guragigna" -- a ferociously funky Ethiopian song which sounds like a blue taxi going at full speed with no brakes during rush hour in Addis Ababa. A live show favourite, it features lead vocals by Mimi. "Medina" is a Teremage Woretaw traditional solo track of voice and messenqo. Imagine off-planet ethereal roots music! "Selemi" is another live favourite, an Ethio-Funk stomper fronted by Tsedenia and supported by the deft keyboards of Samuel Yirga and saxes of Feleke Hailu, that morphs into a southern Ethiopian rhythm of release.
The EP also features members of the mighty 12-piece live band: drummer Nick Van Gelder (Jamiroquai, Brand New Heavies), bassist Dr Das (Asian Dub Foundation), vocalist PJ Higgins (Natacha Atlas, Almamegretta, Kenneth Bager), conga players Ramjac and Toby Mills, as well as the wonderful Horns of Negus, who had recently worked with Dr John, Dizzee Rascal and The Streets. Consisting of Ben Somers (tenor and baritone sax), Robert Dowell (trombone) and Jonathan Radford (trumpet), this band will transport you to the sultry clubs and pounding dancehalls of Addis with their intriguing and exuberant mix of traditional Ethiopian sounds, sturdy reggae rhythms, and a modern dub twist -- simultaneously familiar yet fresh, with echoes of such diverse acts as The Abyssinians, Sun Ra, Tlahoun Gesese, Pablo Gadd, Hirut Beqele, Dick Dale, and King Tubby.