When: Wed., June 26, 9:30 p.m. 2013
West Africa has griots, and Europe used to have bards. In Ethiopia the performers who combine the functions of entertainer, news bearer, and cultural custodian are called azmari. Ethiopian culture has remained distinct from the rest of Africa’s for centuries, and this is reflected in its peoples’ dances (which often require more movement from the head and shoulders than from the lower body), the tonalities of their traditional instruments, and the intricate peregrinations of their pentatonic melodies. In Ethiopia, like everywhere else, traditional modes of art are struggling to remain relevant and sustain themselves. Dancer Melaku Belay, the leader of Fendika, has set out to preserve azmari tradition by collaborating with first-world musicians such as the Ex and the Debo Band. This mixing hasn’t meant dilution, though; when Fendika join the Debo Band, for example, they invest the Boston-based ensemble’s renditions of classic Ethiopian pop songs with flavor and depth by singing them as they were sung during Addis Ababa’s golden age in the 1960s and ’70s. The members of Fendika will improvise in various combinations with drummer Tim Daisy, guitarist Terrie Hessels, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, guitarist Jeff Parker, saxophonist Dave Rempis, and reedist Ken Vandermark. Cale Arthur and Lawrence Peters spin records.. —Bill Meyer Fendika also plays at Constellation on Tuesday night.