"Only Ethiopia protect we from the cold..." - Buju Banton
Yes I. This year's musical country of the year takes us back to the cradle of civilization. I have to give it up to Ethiopia, primarily because of four things: Ras G, KenLo, the Heliocentrics and Oh No's sophomore beat record, Ethiopium.
The first two were beatmakers who I really got into this past year. Both create a wavering, dusty-but-digital sound that feeds off of J. Dilla but throws in a heavy dash of electronic, ambient noise and static.
Ras G is definitely the dustier of the two, whipping up a muddy, frazzled electric brand of hip-hop on the excellent Beats of Mind. KenLo's fourth Craqnuques volume, Orange, is high-flying, future-soul hip-hop, skittering and blipping back and forth. He also teamed up with like-minded producer VLooper for two quality volumes of Bullesbubbles instrumentals (all of them are available for free, by the way, via KenLo and VLoopers' MySpace pages).
And Oh No crafted some nasty bangers on Ethiopium. I was impressed at what he was able to do with Turkish records last time around, so giving him access to a back catalog of Ethiopian funk and jazz (just having access to the Ethiopiques series alone would be worth it) could only have resulted in fire.
And on top of all this, jazz-funk outfit the Heliocentrics collaborated with Ethiopian pianist Mulatu Astatke on probably my favorite release of the bunch, Inspiration Information, a shit-hot set of tense grooves augmented by Malcolm Catto's neck-snap drumming and the Heliocentrics' knob-tweaking atmospherics.
So here's to Ethiopia, baby!