Christian Ethiopians living in the central north: the Tigre, Amhara, Gojjam, Begemdir and Simen, and the Shewa; the rest of the country, the plateau to the south, is occupied by the Galla tribes. The western frontiers of the country are populated by the Shanqella, the east is dominated by Moslem peoples (the Danakil, Issa and Somali), and the south by various populations regrouped under the term Gurage. The musical traditions of Ethiopia reflect this diversity: Christian religious music, sung and danced by priests accompanied by drums and sistrums; the Jewish religious music of the Beta Israel ; the secular music of the Amhara and Tigre Christians; the religious and secular music of the Galla Moslems; and the innumerable vocal and instrumental forms of the southern populations. These traditions are not isolated, and they have tended to mutually influence each other. Parallel to the classical poetry which sung at court or in the halls of the lords, a more colorful tradition developed, namely that of the azmari minstrels. This poetry in a more simple style is sung in Amharic or in Tigre. The verses, often improvised or suggested by others, in which may be found abundance of metaphors and double meaning, but also irony and sarcasm, are most often accompanied on the masinqo bowed lute. The voice, used in service to the texts, is displayed over a relatively wide range. Ornamentation and vibrato, voice timbre which becomes brassy in dramatic moments, the use of pentatonic scales: all these techniques clearly illustrate the relationship of this music to the Nilotic world. In addition, a strong and very ancient influence of Arabic culture is detectable, especially obvious in the occurrence of non-tempered intervals.
The 2016 debut EP from Jazz/Classical duo, Nasambu + Kibrom, Peace, Love and Mercy, is a carefully sculpted 3-song vision of jazzy elegance, three years in the making. Starting with the release of Selam (Peace), as a single and music video in 2014, the EP was entirely recorded and filmed in Los Angeles, CA. Both artists are solo musicians in their own right, and also members of the internationally acclaimed AfroSoul band, Nasambu and The Mystic Nomads, but that very first time they wrote a song together, it came into being instantaneously and with such ease. A complete song formed in a few short minutes, and thus they became the duo, Nasambu + Kibrom.
A virtuoso composer and pianist, Kibrom Birhane creates the fluid musical soundscape for Nasambu’s lyricism and soaring melodies to emerge as a blend of soulful Classical and Jazz tones, combining Ethiopian and Western scales with poetry sung in English, Swahili and Amharic. Mercy, the second track, has a catchy syncopated groove that lyrically speaks to the large waves of mass migration sweeping across the globe in our time, depicting the universal hope of finding that mythical city in the sun where all the people sing as one, and ‘the glory of the light shines down on everyone’.
Nasambu & Kibrom - Mercy
(Official Jazz Single 2016)
The final single released August 2016 in conjunction with the EP, Take Your Time, is a sweeping, sensual love song, where the singer beckons her beloved to take his time as they carefully develop a love that is strong enough to build lasting legacies and weather any storm.
Nasambu + Kibrom - 01 - Take Your Time (4:46)
Nasambu + Kibrom - 02 - Peace, Love and Mercy (2:59)
By combining element’s of Hip-Hop and Reggae, Pamfalon’s music gives a refreshingly honest look at the everyday life struggles and the uncertainty that lies within all of us. Aside from his unique and eclectic delivery, his music offers inspiration and lyrical substance that seems to be lacking in contemporary Ethiopian music. His artistry represents a lifestyle inevitable to a globally connected society.
This marks the core of a revolution in Ethiopian Hip-Hop history. He may not be a household name yet but Pamfalon is on the fast track.
Pamfalon - Dersual
EXCLUSIVE MUSIC INTERVIEW WITH EMERGING ARTIST PAMFALON
Let’s start with where you were born and when you moved to Germany
I was born in Ethiopia. I was 8 when i moved to Germany, and that was 1994.
You have an interesting name, what does Pamfalon mean? How did you come up with it?
I was a fifth grader when we first read a story about a guy called Pamphalon. He was described as a man of this world and was an imposer. There was another man in the same story who spent most of his life on an isolated rock praising God. He was always asking God for a like-minded person. One day God sends him to Phamphalon, to make a spiritual connection. He was very sad and upset, why God would send him to Pamphalon, who seems to be very worldly. God’s response was, that he shall not look on the outside but the inside of a person. I was inspired by this story and therefore decided my alias to be Pamfalon from the first day I started to rap. Back then, I had no idea about life. The more I matured, I realized that this name was meant to be mine.
How did it all start for you, your love for making music? Did you always have a passion for music?
Growing up in a foreign country without parents, I was looking for role models that would fit to me. And those Youth Care Workers were simply not it. On the other side, there was Hip Hop which happened to rescue me. I think, it was 97 where I started rapping and fell in love with it. From then it was just a logical progress; studying the Elements of Hip Hop, and do whatever I had to do, to be “real” in terms of Hip Hop.
I have to say I was not mature yet, all the things I was rapping about was not representing what I stand for now. How can you know about life when you are 15 or 16? But I was noticing that I was blessed with some talent. Then there was a time I decided to take time from the music world, because real life was chasing me, or the other way around. Though I did not stop freestyling and so forth, my focus has slowly shifted.
Your sound is very distinctive and different, especially in your most recent songs, How would you describe the music that you typically create?
I think other people should describe it, but there are a lot of different influences in me so it just happens to be this style, my style. I like all kinds of music by now, so the genre would be Pamfalon…
Who produces your music?
Well, it is different from song to song. Sometimes I just voice a riddim I like, or friends send it to me and I voice it, or I just produce it ; all vocal recordings, compositions and mixing are done by myself. All the projects I am working on right now are produced by myself starting from the scratch. There might be a solo guitar or a brass element that a friend of mine will play for me, but 95% is done by myself.
And Qedamawi Records?
Qedamawi Records, is a Music Label that my brother and me put together. Pamfalon is not the only artist on this label. We have really good artists that will make their way within the next years. It is going to be an Ethiopian Label to release authentic music.
You like to talk about real life struggles in your music, what inspires your song writing?
Whenever I write a song, I am always inspired by life. It is just a way I get over things. I won’t just sing about an issue and leave you there without a solution, but provide it within the lyrics, hoping it inspires someone dealing with the same issues.
I learned early enough that, whenever I open my mouth and talk through a microphone, no bullshit shall I spit. The melodies and styles just come while I create.
What do you want the message in your music to be?
The one and only message I always want to get across my music is God’s existence. We Ethiopians know that, but when you grow up surrounded by non believers, you even start to doubt sometimes. So whenever I mention God in my songs, it is not like I am bragging about my spirituality, but I want to encourage other to hold on to their faith.
Another thing, which is also on my agenda, but not in many songs yet, is Ethiopianisim. It is so exciting being Ethiopian, but what does it mean being Ethiopian? I do not have the perfect formula yet, but I give my best to find it out. I think all blessings come with a task, and need a careful treat, so I want my talent to be a contribution to my people. Though I haven’t contributed anything to my country yet, it is my engine that keeps me going each day.
And of course there are some other things I sing about, all I can say is that I am just a man with emotions and feelings. I am nor perfect or the best, but I try to be as real as I can get.
If you were to describe life, how would you put it into words?
Who are your greatest musical influences?
Probably not different from those of my Generation. But if I was forced to name just 5 : I would say Tupac.
Lastly, what would you like to get out from your music in the next few years?
I am working on my EP now, and also producing songs for other Qedmawi artists. I don’t want to put any pressure on me and talk about any deadline. It is done when it is done. Those who are following me, will now it early enough.