Sunday, February 3, 2013

Hirut Bekele

Hirut Bekele
11" x 8.5", India ink on paper, 2013

There's just no chance I can get all 100 musicians for the Top 100 painted in oils in time. There are still almost 60 musicians to be painted and time is running out (the usual mid-March deadline). The solution to this problem is simple: I resort to ink drawings on paper. So in the next month there will be an onslaught of such colorful ink drawings as the one above, published here. The portrait of Hirut Bekele was made to test the materials I have in mind for finishing the Top 100 2012. I think I like my new bottles of ink. Hirut Bekele, by the way, is an Ethiopian singer who recorded in the 1970s in Addis Ababa. The 1970s was the golden age of "Ethio-Jazz". Music from that era has been Top 100 material for many years now largely because of the release of the multi-volume series Ethiopiques. Hirut Bekele is not represented in these series as far as I can tell, but that doesn't mean she wasn't a star. If you go by the amount of videos on which she can be seen on YouTube, she certainly is a big star. The track in the Top 100 isn't quite like any of the YouTube videos though. There's no jazz band to back her up, instead you hear a simple and sober accompaniment of organ and krar (said to be an ancestor of the banjo) that allows Bekele to fully exploit her mesmerizing voice. Thanks to Brian Shimkovitz who posted the music on Awesome Tapes from Africa from an original cassette, and at the same time, introduced me to it.

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