Posted on 2013/07/28 23:10
  • Live Report
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As I wrote in my post for fujirock.com a few weeks back, I was looking forward to seeing Ethiopian living legend Mulatu Astatke more than any other artist at Fuji Rock this year. Watching a couple of live clips on the internet in preparation for what was to come served as being no preparation at all. Mulatu and his crew of ridiculously talented musicians simply blew every other act at the festival away and their set was 100 times better than anyone else who played over the three days. So sad to see that Mulatu didn’t have much of a following in Japan as you could tell the crowd at the start of the set had no idea of just how much they were about to be moved. One of the band members introduced his leader as Dr. Mulatu Astatke and I am not sure what he is a doctor of but his music poured out over  the Orange Court as if he was channelling some mystical Ethiopian spirits. After around 5 minutes, he had weaved his magic and the crowd were completely and irreversibly under his spell. Mulatu was positioned at the front of the stage with the purest of smiles and gentlest of mannerisms as he switched between playing the vibraphone, keyboard, congas and timbales. All the other members of his team were young enough to be his grandchildren but every single one of them was unimaginably proficient at what they played and there was not a single weak link in the chain. As any great live musician does, he did not just play songs exactly as they are on his albums but he used their melodic and rhythmic foundations as a base for exploration. While most of his recorded songs are between 3 and 7 minutes in length, on stage, some of them became 15 minutes long, ample time for each member of his band to deliver some mind blowing solos. He treated us to tunes from releases he put out in the 70′s, a track from the soundtrack to the Jim Jarmusch film “Broken Flowers” and some material from his forthcoming album. If anyone reads this before he plays at the Crystal Palace later tonight, do whatever you can to get in there and see him.

I was extremely fortunate to get an interview with Mr. Astatke after the show. You can read it here.