As I’ve been going through a number of tracks, it seems that today’s focus has inadvertently been on obscurities. And as I’ve mentioned on a number of occasions that can often be the strength of both independent labels and the blogosphere – when done right, that is. Now you’ll likely remember this from the previous post but we’ll go through some background very quickly: founded by enthusiasts, Philophon is a Berlin, Germany-based label and since its founding back in 2011, the label and its staff have claimed that their mission is to be the home of 21st century soul. With the assistance of Rappcats Records, the German label is releasing a series of 45s featuring funk and soul straight out of Africa.
The fourth release of the 45 series features the Ethiopian jazz/funk legend Hailu Mergia. Mergia’s “Musical Slit” has been considered by both critics and fans as the pinnacle of 70s Ethiopian music, and in fact, that single has been featured a few times over the years – including the Ethiopiques series and the actual record the single was on was re-issued by Awesome Tapes From Africa. Interestingly, although the Ethiopian legend’s material has received a bit of attention Stateside and internationally, Mergia hasn’t released new music in over 30 years – that is until now. “Yegle Nesh,” is slow, strut-inducing funk song consisting of twisting and turning organ chords around a wind and brass-based melody, angular guitar chords and propulsive percussion. The track possesses an effortless, head-bopping, toe-tapping cool – the sort that dimly channels Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters.