- Black Vinyl
The first vocal album by beloved Ethiopian nun, composer, and pianist Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru – profound and deeply moving home cassette recordings made amidst political upheaval and turmoil. These are songs of wisdom, loss, mourning, and exile, sung directly into a boombox and accompanied by Emahoy’s unmistakable piano. Though written and recorded while still living at her family’s home in Addis Ababa, Emahoy sings of the heartache of being far from home, a reflection on the 1974 revolution and Red Terror in Ethiopia, and a presentiment of her future exile in Jerusalem.
In the 21st century, Emahoy has become known worldwide for her utterly unique melodic and rhythmic style. Commonly misinterpreted as “jazzy” or “honky tonk,” Emahoy’s music actually comes from a deep engagement with the Western classical tradition, mixed with her background in Ethiopian traditional and Orthodox music.
These songs, recorded between 1977-1985, are different from anything previously released by the artist. Rich with the sound of birds outside the window, the creak of the piano bench, the thump of Emahoy’s finger on the record button, they create a sense of place, of being near the artist while she records.
Emahoy’s lyrics, sung in Amharic, are poetic and heavy with the weight of exile. “When I looked out / past the clouds / I couldn’t see my country’s sky / Have I really gone so far?” she asks in “Is It Sunny or Cloudy in the Land You Live?” Her vocals are delicate and heartfelt, tracing the melodic contours of her piano on songs like “Where Is the Highway of Thought?”
“Tenkou! Why Feel Sorry?,” a career highlight that closes out her self-titled Mississippi album (MRP-099), is revisited here with vocals. Originally composed for her niece, Tenkou, the lyrics clarify the song title we’ve wondered about for so many years. “Don’t cry / Childhood won’t come back / Let it go with love.”
Emahoy dreamt of releasing this music to a larger audience before her passing in March of 2023.
Souvenirs – Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru has been added to your bag.