Will “Quantic” Holland is always looking for new sounds, in betweens, “soundclashes” that produce interesting results–most recently in Colombia. Back in 2004, however, Holland took a trip to Ethiopia that resulted in a meeting with famed Ethio-jazz man Mulatu Astatke (an interview Holland did with Mulatu was subsequently published in Wax Poetics) and a further love of Ethiopian music of all stripes. It’s a big country with a huge variety of different types of music (that’s what you get from more than 80 different ethnic groups with as many different languages). Mulatu, J Dilla and Arthur Verocai were all celebrated in the Timeless Concert series, “a concert series that was created in homage to the composer/arrangers who have influenced hip-hop in the most literal and profound ways”, which took place in February-March 2009. As part of the series, Holland performed an hour-long mix of Ethiopian music. Get it here.
It’s now being released in advance of the June release of a box set that will include recordings of each concert. The mix is a selection of records Holland picked up in Ethiopia back in 2004. It’s just scratching the surface where Ethiopian music is concerned, but man, it’s damned good.
For a little context, here’s my piece on Quantic from 2006, where he talks about making the Addis connection.
England’s 26-year-old Will “Quantic” Holland is a bit of a wunderkind. He’s prolific as all get out, and he’s consistently bloody good. In advance of a DJ set this weekend, the Mirror asked the Bristol-based eclecticist about finding tunes, links and Mulatu Astatke.
Mirror: I see you as taking the concept of crate-digging to a whole other level. What do you look for?
Quantic: The basic form of crate-digging is where it’s basically looking for drum breaks to loop up or to sample and things. I think that once you do that for a while (laughs), you just get into music a little more deeply. You get into all kinds of music, regardless as to whether it has a drum break in it, or whether it’s a funky record or not.
M: You travel around a lot. It seems like you want to go to the source of the music you like—take, for instance, Ethiopia’s Mulatu Astatke.
Q: [Miles Cleret, owner of Soundway Records] and I were just sitting around one night and he told me he’d gone to Ethiopia pretty briefly, but he’d found some nice records. We just decided to go again, with the premise of trying to track down Mulatu for an interview (laughs). Actually, Mulatu really took us under his wing.
M: Ethiopians tend to be nice like that!
Q: Yeah. You know, all these places, some are heavy places to go to, but people are really friendly. I think it’s like anything, when somebody’s taken an interest in your culture, unless you’re robbing or something, but this is something that we are promoting, and trying to keep the knowledge of this music alive.
M: It seems that everyone wants what’s new, but you’re resurrecting the past. Do you ever feel that you should focus more on contemporary tunes?
Q: I’m interested in real music, and music played in a room with an atmosphere to it. Just because I like Puerto Rican rhumba records from the ’60s doesn’t mean I have to like reggaeton. To be honest, I really like drummers and I really like live music. And I like things nasty, kind of messed up, in a way that gives it character. And I think what you’ve got to remember with these older recordings is that they were made in really unique times.
M: It’s as if you’re looking for links. With Mulatu, you do hear the minor strains so common to Ethiopian music, mixed with other influences. With early calypso, you hear the traditional chanting. It’s almost like being a musical archeologist.
Q: Definitely. I think it’s just looking to see what spices were turned into pop along the way. With Mulatu, you can hear Chinese music in there, and you can hear all the Puerto Rican rhythms that he picked up in New York. And you can hear the fact that he was in London playing with jazz guys. I love going on trips because you hear just the strangest music.
UPDATE: If you want to hear more (like I do!), follow @AddisTunes on twitter and check out an awesome mix here.