by Dexter Story

Vinyl LP(Long Playing Record)

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Dexter Story is a musical polymath. He is a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, and arranger. He works in genres from global spiritual soul and jazz to funk, folk, and hip-hop. He has spent the 2010s studying and traveling the Horn of Africa, immersing himself in its musical traditions -- beautifully articulated on 2015's Wondem. The Carlos Nino-produced Bahir, filled with guests, picks up from and expands the terrain explored on his previous outing. Rooted in Eastern Africa's musical traditions, he engages influences with the soul, funk, and jazz from his Western world albeit one transformed by his travels. His intention is not simply to bring those influences to the West, but to contribute music that expands the traditions he employs here. The album title is an Arabic, Hebrew, and Ethiopian Amharic word for "sea," signifying his travels and how it connects cultures. The set opens with the brief instrumental "Techawit," that weaves East African folk music with Alice Coltrane's transcendent spiritual jazz. It introduces the majestic "Biba," featuring the award-winning Ethiopian singer and multi-instrumentalist Kibrom Birhane atop a swirling vocal chorus, strings, drums, and synths. It's a dance and a processional, and is guaranteed to lift the spirits of anyone who hears it. First single "Gold" features the vocals and violin of L.A.-based Sudan Archives and fuses Tuareg blues, funk, and baroque soul. Its hypnotic droning guitars and propulsive, organic beats frame Story and other singers in an orgy of rhythm and melody. Ethiopian vocalist Haile Supreme fronts the snaky Ethio jazz (think Mulatu Astatke)-cum-dub number "Ras" amid wailing flutes, horns, vibraphones, and handclaps. Instrumental "Mamdoo" (introduced by an oud solo) weaves Miguel Atwood-Ferguson's viola with an organ, Arabic guitars, hand drums, and an in-the-pocket bassline in a whirl of '70s cop soundtrack vibes. The jazz tip returns on "Buna Be Chow" with Josef Leimberg's trumpet leading the charge amid tenor saxophone and flute with slippery percussion and L.A. vocalist Jimetta Rose up front with Story. It's followed by "Electric Gurage," an ode to the '70s music and dance of Ethiopia's Guragigna people; its John Lee Hooker-esque boogie is infectious. "Chemin de Fere" is a collision of L.A. soul and Somali funk. "Jijiga Jijiya," featuring Zap Mama's Marie Daulne, is framed in a modern West Coast production aesthetic that refutes nostalgic comparisons, while "Shuruba Song" (featuring the glorious vocals of Ethiopia's Hamelmal Abate) juxtaposes drum machines, Rhodes and organ, synths, and backmasked guitar and Ethio pop. Dovetailing that is the title track that features Ethiopian electronic and dance producer Endeguena Mulu, who demonstrates his multi-layered "Ethiopiyawi Electronic" approach with layers of folk instruments, drum loops, and samples under a seductive melody. Set-closer "Abebaye" is another showcase for Daulne. It conjures a spell intersecting vocal jazz, East African folk music, and blissed-out 21st century soul. Story's accomplishment on Bahir is significant. In his use of historical sounds and trends from both continents, he emerges with a music that doesn't bridge cultures so much employ them holistically; differences are intact yet readily traceable. Bahir is a new sound and approach to musical integration.

Product Details

Release Date: 03/15/2019
Label: Soundway Records
UPC: 5060571360342
catalogNumber: 128
Rank: 139936


  1. Techawit
  2. Bila
  3. Gold
  4. Electric Gurage
  5. Mamdooh
  6. Buna Be Chow
  7. Ras
  8. Jijiga Jijiya
  9. Desta's Groove
  10. Shuruba Song
  11. Bahir
  12. Abebaye

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