On Friday, May 20th the Debo Band performed at Tropicalia in Washington DC. I caught up with the bandleader and saxophonist Danny Mekonnen just before soundcheck. I’d met most of the band four years earlier when they came to DC to promote their debut album Debo Band. I was excited to hear them again. The night was special. For one, it was the day their sophomore album, Ere Gobez, was officially released.
As Danny says, they were particularly excited about performing in the District because of the metropolitan area’s prodigious Ethiopian diaspora population. With somewhere between 250,000 to 350,000 immigrants and their children, it supports the largest Ethiopian population in the United States. Furthermore he says Debo Band is a product of the Ethiopian-American experience much like DC is. Both represent the beauty of the United States – a mix of cultures, shapes and colors.
Debo Band simply tore the place up! Here we are doing our part to bring in any last minute audience members, who might be trolling my Facebook page for some good, live African music in DC.
The concert performance had the crowd mesmerized and visibly pleased. Smiles were on most every face, mine included. The instrumentation was so rich with the saxophone, trumpet, electric violin, accordion, guitar, electric bass, drums, and most fascinating of all, the sousaphone. I mean, who would ever imagine hearing a tuba pounding out driving dance beats in night club? Let me add that the vocal performance by Bruck Tesfaye was absolutely thrilling. His smooth voice was a beautiful display of agility and sensitivity. Frankly, I was taken away with the whole package.
The new album represents a departure from their previous Debo Band release.Danny describes it as more bold, confident and wild. He says years of playing and interacting with audiences worldwide since 2012, has informed and infused their sound into what it is today.
My favorite track from Ere Gobez is one of their originals, track #10, entitled “Yalanchi.” Listen here to the track and Danny’s description of what makes it unique.
The most exciting moment in their performance at Tropicalia was the live version of the title track, “Ele.” Its driving beat and catchy riffs performed by the violin drove the crowd wild. Danny says the band is developing a concept for their first video that will most likely be based on this piece.
Don’t miss Debo Band if you hear that they’re coming to your town. The live show is every bit as good as their recordings. Experiencing Debo Band music opens the mind, and perhaps the heart, to another beautiful dimension of African music.