Under African Skies was the title of a 5 part television series, produced by the BBC, 'looking at the diverse music of Africa: where it comes from, what it means and where it is going. A celebration of the new sounds of a continent'.
Part 2 of the series, 58 minutes long and first broadcast on BBC Two on 29 September 1989, dealt with Ethiopia. It starts, and ends, with Aster Aweke (pictured above) performing in Washington - but then most of the rest of the film is shot in 1989 Ethiopia. Lots of the old singers, bands, and night clubs - and a number of other celebrities (including Afewerk Tekle and Tsegaye Gabre-Medhin).
The description of the programme, from issue 3433 of the Radio Times, 21 September 1989, reads:
'Most people see my country as a place of famine and civil war. But there is another, more enduring side. We are a people with a long history.' Thus singer Aster Aweke introduces the second film in this series. Neither quite African nor Arabic, the contemporary sounds of Ethiopia draw their inspiration from powerful and ancient sources - the mesmeric singing of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church; the subtle and elliptical quality of amharic poetry; and the quick-witted satire of Ethiopia's troubadours, the Azmaris. Ethiopia has been described as being in Africa, but not of it. Eight thousand feet up on its highland plateau, never successfully colonised, it tenaciously holds to its own ways.
Although weary and scarred by the events of recent years, this spirit persists in the unique and haunting beauty of its music.
Singer: Aster Aweke
Film cameraman: John Howarth
Film editor: Susan Spivey
Executive producer: Dennis Marks
Producer: Richard Taylor"
To give some idea of some of the music featured (mainly snippets), the record, Under African Skies, that was released following the series included:
Mamo Chala With Singers Of The National Theatre Addis Abeba - Dini Demeke - Trad.
Neway Debebe - Yetkemt Abeba - Written by Neway Debebe
Aster Aweke - Wolela - Written by Aster Aweke
Mohammed Ahmed & The Roha Band - Ya Selame Lalo - Written by Mohammed Ahmed
Bezawork Asfew - T'Zeta - Arranged by - Bezawork - Trad.
An amazing documentary! Who doesn't want to see Ethiopian Television struggling to make a green screen recording? Cassette Alley? The Ethiopian Music Association deliberating over a new tape recording? The club at Buffet De Lagare? 1989 Addis Ababa in all its splendour?
If you haven't seen it - watch it.
If you have seen it - I know you'll want to watch it again!
Uploaded on to Youtube by the Producer/Director, Richard Taylor