Emahoy Tsegue-Mariam Guebru - s/t LP
The incredible solo piano compositions of an Ethiopian nun named Tsegue-Maryam Guebru have always had a place in our hearts. Her playing is devastatingly lovely and haunting, a curious hybrid of old time jazz and classical of the Satie variety, but still truly Ethiopian. Dark and contemplative, moody but subtly playful too, her music is like exotic lamentations that have an impressionistic lyrical melancholy.
Now Mississippi Records have gifted us with a second collection of Guebru's recordings. These recordings, originally collected in the incredible Ethiopiques anthologies, were the first signs that we were hearing a uniquely distinct musical voice for the first time, and we've been hooked ever since.
These compositions were recorded in the sixties following a tumultuous life as a musical child prodigy, prisoner of war, nun, national bandleader and fleeing refugee. She has dedicated her life and musical practice in pursuit of charity for children. Now in her nineties, living in Jerusalem but nearing death, a foundation in her name has been making concentrated effort in trying to preserve her legacy by transcribing her numerous compositions to benefit future generations.
And like her fantastic and adventurous life, her music is equally as remarkable, the sound and feel is so dense with memory and imagery, musical but somehow quite visual, warm and woozy, a fuzzy, sepia toned old timey feel, due in no small part to the recording. Sounding reminiscent of old 78's, with dark rumbling low notes underpinning sweet swirls and delicate flurries of minor key melody. Sweet and lowdown for sure, reminding us of warm evenings, back porches, big beautiful parlors, huge empty fields, grass waving in the breeze, long late night wanders and moonlight strolls. So completely dreamy and lovely. Highest recommendation!