By Lucy Ilado
Ethiopian singer and poet Demisu Belete and Israel’s 12-piece Hoodna Orchestra are set to release ‘Alem’, a song produced and directed by the orchestra’s director, Ilan Smilan. ‘Alem’ is scheduled for digital release on 8 September.
Belete’s commanding singing style, which is heavily influenced by Ethiopian music pioneers Mahmoud Ahmed and Tilahun Gesesse, and Hoodna Orchestra’s dynamic brass section and African grooves come together on ‘Alem’ to create a powerful composition, which will also be launched on 7″ vinyl at the Red Sea Jazz Festival in Israel on 30 August.
The B-side of the vinyl is an Ethio-dub version of ‘Alem’ titled ‘Alem-Dub’ featuring members of Adyabo Ensemble, a traditional Ethiopian project started by singer and krar player Yaakov Lilay. The ensemble employs traditional arrangements of various styles and instruments such as the mesenko, washint and krar.
Hoodna Orchestra, which doubles up as a record label, was formed in Tel Aviv in 2012. In 2015, the group released its first album ‘Let Go’, a nine-track Afrobeat offering featuring various guest artists. The band is now exploring the sounds of East Africa, particularly those of Ethiopia and Eritrea, as well as Arabic music traditions.
“There is a whole community of Ethiopians in Israel who came with tons of heritage, culture, and therefore music,” Hoodna Orchestra percussionist Rani Birenbaum told The Jerusalem Post. “These collaborations are an opportunity for those interested in the origins of the music we play to learn.”
Birenbaum said Belete’s collaboration with Hoodna Orchestra had begun before ‘Alem’, although his voice was never featured until now. “We got in touch with Demisu during our last project, where we produced two songs called ‘Yelben’ [sung by Demisu Belete] and ‘Beza’. “He’s a poet and singer and we needed someone to write lyrics in Amharic,” Birenbaum said.