What – or who? – is the Debo Band?
Well, it is a sprawling, 10-piece band that plays exotic, horn-laden dance music that’s Ethiopian in nature but loaded with plenty of funk, soul and Afro-beat to boot.
Although they’re based state-side – Boston, to be more precise – and have only a few real Ethiopian musicians in their ranks, the music was undeniably fun, and it’s real. Following a Friday performance at the Montreal Jazz Festival, they landed in Troy on Saturday to launch a new community performance space that’s been dubbed Freedom Square.
Led by Danny Mekonnen, the Debo Band’s music was just as vocally hypnotic as that of Ethiopian chanteuse Aster Aweke, but it was bolstered by a deep foundation of relentlessly infectious rhythms that seeped into your soul and got parts of your body involuntarily tapping or rocking.
The band’s lyrics were certainly not understood by most of those in attendance, but the words were hardly the focal point. It was all about the feel and the spirit, which were irresistibly contagious. The music just bounced and glided in the groove of the mesmerizing beat.
With only a lone EP to their credit so far – “Flamingoh (Pink Bird Dawn)” – the band is already opening western ears to this unique North-Eastern African music.
Presented by our friends at the Sanctuary for Independent Media in conjunction with the Troy Bike Rescue, the Missing Link Street Ministry and the Collard City Growers, the Debo Band christened the brand new community gathering space in fine fashion, leading an afternoon of homegrown performances by Troy’s own Missing Link Men’s chorus, hip-hop group S.K.A.T.E. and country-rockers Sumac.
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk