Zerfu Demissie - Akota [Terp Records - 2008]The Begena is unique ten string harp instrument sounding like a more doomy and bassy Sitar, it exists only in Ethiopia with mentions of existences dating back 3,000 years, so it must be also one of the oldest existing instruments today. Akota presents an hour of the Begena music and Ethiopia singing by one of the masters of the instrument Zerfu Demissie.
The Begena really sounds quite unlike anything you’ll have heard before it has a dark, buzzing, discordant yet beautiful and often very hypnotic sound. Often it almost has an doomy metallic feel with out the distortion- Really it would be truly amazing to hear this is a metallic format, but somehow I doubt this will happen as the Begena is a scared instrument with Biblical connections thats also know as the harp of king David. So I hear you cry “what’s the disk like?” well it’s certainly distinctive and at times compelling, but the problem is that there’s just Begena and vocals used for all of the 11 tracks, which means the tracks sounds very similar with little or no variation at all. so what begins as been strange, dark and potent becomes rather strained and a little boring which is a great pity.
So in summing a truly amazing sounding instrument who’s tones must be heard at least once in the life of an sonicRoger Batty
explorer, it’s just a pity that there’s little or no attempt to change the pace of the songs or add any diffrent sounds or textures in. Someone needs to put the Begena in more exiting, challenging and ultimate enteraining context, which sadly this doesn’t do. On the plus side the albums packed with a informative 24 page colour booklet about the Begena’s history, and an interview with Zerfu Demissie.