Dereb the Ambassador is one of Ethiopia’s most well known and loved musicians, and has clearly begun to transfer that fame to his adopted home in Australia. Boasting an extensive CV of performances down under since his relocation, he graced the Brunswick Music Festival with an exotic and intoxicating performance showcasing his unique style of Ethio-soul at the Brunswick Town Hall.
The night commenced with an introductory tune performed by the band playing solo. It was a groovy instrumental number, powered by saxophone and percussion, along the lines of world-renowned Ethiopian jazz artist Mulatu Astake. It provided a glimpse for the audience of how the rest of the night would unfold.
Whereas the first track focused on the instrumental side of the music, once Dereb came on that focus then shifted onto the singer himself. The power of his voice resonated throughout Brunswick Town Hall and at times seemed to make even the pillars dance along. His lyrics, whilst incomprehensible to the majority of the crowd, were still hypnotic and entrancing.
Surprisingly, given the deep grooves embedded in the music, most people chose to sit for the performance. However, a few brave souls did venture to the allocated dance areas on the sides to pull out some impressive moves. Almost all those who did remain seated, however, were nonetheless shimmying non-stop in their seats.
Dereb, whilst branding his music as Ethiopian soul/jazz, obviously channels a multitude of influences to create his very own unique style. The backbone of his music is clearly Ethiopian, but intertwined amongst this are influences from reggae, calypso and afrobeat. His music is warm and layered — the many different layers of percussion, horn and keyboard each contribute something distinct, yet still succeed in creating a whole piece that is neither distracting nor chaotic.
Dereb worked effortlessly with the crowd. Starting slowly with a calmer, subdued presence, by the midway mark the increase in energy was noticeably more dramatic and the entire venue felt totally alive. It evidently had an effect on me – I noticed I was still shimmying even as I rode my bike on my way home.
Dotti (Nicole) Mazga is a law student currently learning how to make the world a better place in Melbourne. When she’s not hitting the books, you can find her consuming any theatre, dance, or space-related event she can get her hands on.