The Nile Project Reinvent Undulating, Mesmerizing Nubian and Ethiopian Grooves

by delarue

The Nile Project use Nubian traditional songs and proto-funk as a stepping-off point for lavishly colorful, frequently hypnotic jams. There are all kinds of influences here, from Egypt to Ethiopia, Mali and points further south, not to mention American psychedelic rock This blog gave their 2015 debut album Aswan a big thumbs-up. Their 2017 follow-up, Jinja – streaming at Bandcamp – picks up with much more of a darkly vivid Ethiopian tinge. With this band’s vast stash of instruments, they must have a huge tour van.

The first track, Inganji begins with Mohamed Abozekry’s skeletal, skittish oud riff, then Steven Sogo’s guitar kicks in over a circling, hypnotic Malian groove. There’s a very assertive call-and-response at one point between frontwoman Sophie Nzayisenga and the other women in the group.

Allah Bagy sounds like a mashup of a majestic Nile valley anthem and a briskly circling Malian theme, spiced with a rapidfire web of stringed instruments and Jorga Mesfin’s honking baritone sax. You want psychedelic? Ya Abi Wuha follows the same slow/fast formula, with more of an Ethiopian tinge and rippling proto-blues guitar riffage.

Dawit Seyoum’s krar harp delivers hypnotic, rapidfire volleys in Omwiga – it gets joyous when Ahmed Omar’s bass and Hany Bedair’s drums kick in, moving in more of an ellipse than a circle. With Nader Elshaer’s leaping flute over a percussive gallop, Unzi Nil could be a prototype for a brooding Bob Marley anthem. The more distinctly Egyptian-flavored epic Dil Mahbuby gets a long, percolating oud intro, a lithely slinky groove, a plaintively expressive Arabic vocal from Dina El Wedidi and yet another doublespeed romp.

Tenseo is even longer, more than twelve minutes of suspensefully fluttering fretwork, Selamnesh Zemene’s dramatic melismatic vocals, and an undulating, broodingly chromatic groove that could be Mulatu Astatke.

Swaying along over a spiky oud loop, Marigarita has a fervent Ethiopian tinge. Biwelewele is a big, catchy, undulating anthem over a bluesy minor-key bassline. The album’s final, benedictory cut is Mulungi Munange. To say that this careening ensemble are the sum of their parts is actually high praise.