New England’s Finest Ethiopian Funk
Ethiopian singer/dancer Kiflu Kidane and his band New Nile Orchestra have been performing their high energy brand of world music for more than 20 years across New England. The infectious rhythms from the band combined with Kidane’s remarkable dancing and singing inspire even the most committed wall flower to get up and dance.
Kidane was born to dance. His musical family encouraged him to express himself. By the time he could walk, he could dance. By the time he became a man he was a principal dancer in the Ethiopian National Dance Theater.
When he came to the US in 1990, his dancing tendencies could not be suppressed, but he couldn’t find any music that spoke to his polyrhythmic nature. Most popular western music is in 4/4 time; Kidane was raised on 7′s and 13′s. In 1991 he started New Nile, so he could have something to dance to.
Using standard western instrumentation, NNO members transpose traditional Ethiopian melodies into something danceable — as the band puts together each new song, Kidane listens with his body, if it moves him, it’s a go!
Some dances originate in agriculture. “I ha ma ma” features accompanying dance movements that mimmick coffee bean picking. Rambosay’s dance has it’s origins in combat. The motions answer the question, “Who is the best?” Other dances have more intimate origins, and because their song lyrics are all in Amharic, Kidane’s first language, we can only guess at their risque sentiments. When asked to translate, Kidane demurs and prefers to let the dances speak for themselves.