Temesgen Zeleke, a former star pupil of Mulatu Astatke leads the Krar Collective who perform a contemporary take on traditional music from Ethiopia, music that is based on other-worldly modes and driving hypnotic rhythms. The Krar is a 6-stringed lyre associated with traditional azmari minstrels, Zeleke makes it sound like an ancient rock guitar. Accompanied by drummer Robel Taye and fronted by the stunning, soaring voice of Genet Assefa, Krar Collective create a big sound. With a varied repertoire from gentle ballads to high-energy dance tunes, and following their recent participation on Damon Albarn’s Africa Express where they worked with Africa stars such as Baaba Maal, Rokia Traore, and Amadou & Mariam as well as British bands such as Rizzle Kicks and Temper Trap, Krar Collective are a surprise you should check out.. www.krarcollective.com
Kamal Huggins-Kolade interviews the Krar Collective…
Hearing Krar Collective live for the first time was like listening to warm sound waves smoothing down the rock weighing me down after a long day. When the strummed melodies coloured the room voices accompanied them and spoke to my soul and left me spellbound by the direct harmony.
I loved it and was fascinated by the sound that the Krar created.
(from left to right) Team V’s Kamal Huggins-Kolade interviews Genet Assefa and Robel Taye
1. What is it like touring the UK with the Africa Express?
Genet: “Fantastic, there are 80 musicians on the tour, from all over the world. It’s a real experience. We do a gig every night, it’s been across the UK.”
2. Your music is quite trance like and hypnotic, how do you keep that but maintain so much passion?
Robel: “Many Western bands will often play the same tune every time in the same way. If you hear us in one moment and come back to hear us an hour later, the same song will be different, we are constantly changing, that’s what makes us unique and keeps us passionate about what we do. In Africa Express, we are part of 80 musicians from all over the world with many different instruments. On tour we jam together and learn each other’s music and share our knowledge.”
3. Who inspired you?
Genet: “I started singing in church and then toured clubs in the UK, this is where I met Temesgen and how we came to start the Krar Collective.”
4. You’ve been to Birmingham before, is your fan base growing?
Genet: Yes it is. We played the Hare and Hounds last time, and now the MAC. When we tour there are people from all over the world who approach us and play our music or sing to us, it’s amazing to hear them.
Temesgen Zeleke and Robel Taye in soundcheck ahead of their performance at the MAC which took place on 4 October…
5. Where can we find a place that sells Krar?
Robel: “It’s really difficult to find the Krar instrument in the UK as it is made at home (Ethiopia).”
We found a Krar on eBay but doubt that it would be the same as the one played by the magical musician who played this instrument like it was an extension of his own body.