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Ethiopian music is a term that can refer to any music from Ethiopia, although it is most generally used to refer to a genre, a pentatonic modal system with unusually long intervals between notes.
The music of the Ethiopian Highlands is based on the qenet modal system, which comprises four primary modes: tezeta, bati, ambassel, and anchihoy. Tezeta minor, bati major, and bati minor are three further variants on the previous modes. Some songs are titled after their qenet, such as tizita, a reminiscence song. When played on traditional instruments, these modes are frequently not tempered (i.e., the pitches may deviate greatly from the Western-tempered tuning system), although they are tempered when played on Western instruments like pianos and guitars. The music of Ethiopia’s highlands is usually monophonic or heterophonic. Some southern locations have polyphonic music. Majangir comprises just four parts, whereas Dorze polyphonic singing (edho) can have up to five. Ethiopia is a musically traditional country. Popular music is performed, recorded, and listened to, but most musicians also sing traditional songs, and most listeners enjoy both. During Haile Selassie’s reign, brass bands were transferred from Jerusalem in the form of forty Armenian orphans (Arba Lijoch), and were a long-standing popular musical tradition in Ethiopia. When it arrived in Addis Ababa on September 6, 1924, this band became Ethiopia’s first official orchestra. At the end of World War II, large orchestras accompanied performances; the Army Band, Police Band, and Imperial Bodyguard Band were the most well-known orchestras. From the 1950s to the 1970s, popular Ethiopian musicians included Mahmoud Ahmed, Alemayehu Eshete, Hirut Bekele, Ali Birra, Ayalew Mesfin, Kiros Alemayehu, Muluken Melesse, and Tilahun Gessesse, while popular folk musicians included Alemu Aga, Kassa Tessema, Ketema Makonnen, Asnaketch Worku, and Mary Armede. Mulatu Astatke, a pioneer of Ethio-jazz, was arguably the most important artist of the time. Amha Records, Kaifa Records, and Philips-Ethiopia were among the major Ethiopian record labels of the period. Since 1997, Buda Musique’s Éthiopiques series has released many of these songs and albums on compact disc.

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