Music Lounge

Published on December 11th, 2018 | by Jameelah "Just Jay" Wilkerson


Te’Amir ft. Dustin Warren – The Quest

Acclaimed Los Angeles drummer and producer Te’Amir [pronounced Taah-mer] ties together his 2018 two-part EP series of beat driven and soulful explorations Abyssinia & Abyssinia Rise, together inspired by his Ethiopian heritage, for release as one vinyl full-length LP, January 25 on Tru Thoughts. The release is imprinted with his research into the Ethiopian Golden Era, Éthiopiques, traditional Ethiopian and Eritrean music, and offers a beatific interpretation that takes the listener on a journey through the soundscapes of the Abyssinian Empire.

Te’Amir is heavily involved in the city’s hip-hop, jazz and soul scenes, having spent the last ten years touring and recording with Aloe Blacc as well as playing alongside artists such as Kamasi Washington and Kendrick Lamar. Released in July, his first solo project Abyssinia EP demonstrated his extensive experience as a live drummer and gained the acclaim of Aaron Byrd (KCRW), Gideon Coe (BBC 6 Music), Don Letts (BBC 6 Music) and Tom Ravenscroft (BBC 6 Music), who had Te’Amir in for a guest mix. The EP’s lead track “Habesha” was featured on Okayplayer’s ‘Mixtape Monday’, and the mesmerising “The Quest feat. Dustin Warren” was premiered by CLASH; the full EP received reviews from DJ Mag (7.5/10) and Exclaim! (8/10), along with a track-by-track guide feature in Revive Music, and coverage (including an interview with Te’Amir) on Bandcamp Weekly. His second EP, Abyssinia Rise, followed in October with a more electronic feel, and brought sonic beats that pushed the next instalment into an ethereal realm brimming with fresh and exciting sounds. Awarding the tracks top accolades, L.A. Record and Stamp The Wax premiered “Blue Nile” and “Salam” respectively, which added to MusiK Please and OkayAfrica reviews and Bandcamp ‘New & Notable’ feature for the EP.

Across the project, Te’Amir explores and celebrates his connection to Ethiopia and its people, he explains: “My father is from Ethiopia. He would play me recordings of traditional music and hits from the Golden Era when I was a kid. I rediscovered some of his old tapes and records and began dissecting them. They were my connection to Ethiopia”.

Kicking things off, “Habesha” is dedicated to the Habesha people and inspired by their strength and history. On the track, Te’Amir distorts piano notes to replicate the sound of old Ethiopian records whilst a minor pentatonic bassline plays underfoot. Next up, “The Quest” is opened by the celestial jazz vocals of Dustin Warren, and brilliant snatches of cosmic harp glissandos from Rebekah Raff (who played harp on Flying Lotus’ ‘Cosmogramma’) meld with Miguel Atwood-Ferguson’s moody violin and viola lines and the guitar of regular collaborator Mike McTaggart.

Dustin Warren’s silken vocals return in “All That You Need” and gracefully transition the track from a golden-voiced love ballad into an operatic drama. The triumphant horns from Te’Amir’s brother Tutu Sweeney crumble under the weight of the haunting distortion and into “Randal In Addis”, which was named after Ethiopia’s capital city Addis Ababa and the saxophonist Randal Fisher (Ethio Cali), who brought the track to life. The shimmering keys and rich horns of “Afrika” transport you back to the ancestral home of Te’Amir and mark the close of the first part.

Opening the Abyssinia Rise chapter, the traditional Ethiopian arrangement in “Back To Abyssinia” blends the unknown with the nostalgic: “I really wanted to create something that had a traditional element as a focal point but transport it to space” Te’Amir explains. “Blue Nile” melds together an uplifting mix of live and electronic drums that unite in an energetic and ambient flow that carries listeners on a passage down the Nile. Next up is “Afar Hustle”, an epic up-tempo tale which relentlessly traces the hustle and bustle of working life in Abyssinia’s fields, using heavy beats recorded on a crunchy live drum loop. The record closes with “Salam”, which blends dubbed out spacey grooves and synths to recreate the fullness of dawn, highlighting the title of the release “Abyssinia Rise”. Te’Amir says of “Salam”, “It usually brings me peace. I used to listen to it in the morning, so I called it Salam, which means peace and is used as a greeting”.

Te’Amir’s practice is informed by his classical training and Afro-diasporic rhythms, along with the contemporary hip-hop and soul artists he has performed with over the last ten years. As well as playing with Aloe Blacc, Kendrick Lamar and Kamasi Washington, Te’Amir has performed with Kadhja Bonet, Ethio Cali, Mark de Clive-Lowe, YG, Kamaiyah, Kelis, Sahr Ngaujah (Fela! Musical Off- Broadway), Allen Stone, Shafiq Husayn, Quantic and Tewodros Tadesse. Te’Amir also attended the Red Bull Music Academy in Barcelona.

About Tru Thoughts:

Formed in 1999, Tru Thoughts are an eclectic label based in Brighton, UK, home to artists such as Quantic, Moonchild, Te’Amir, The Hot 8 Brass Band, and many more in the left-field electronic, soul, and world, and jazz genres. Still running from Brighton, but now with a sister office in LA, Tru Thoughts have released over 120 albums and are still 100% independent.

Tru Thoughts publishing company Full Thought Publishing works alongside the label, whilst also attracting a wide catalogue of non-Tru Thoughts music.

About the Author

Publisher and CEO of The Hype Magazine. Follow me on Twitter @HypeJustJay

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