TPJS 41 Comments

Photo by Dalia Bagdonaite

In recent years I have been bewildered by the route Ethiopian music has taken. There have been a few bright lights here and there but those are the exception to the rule. The rule has been to market over produced and over synthesized music. And then, I came across Tommy T’s (Thomas Temesgen Gobena) CD called “The Prester John Sessions.”


It has to be said that the CD, anEasy Star Records release, is not entirely Ethiopian but also encompasses genres of funk, reggae and dub. The CD, which is on sale on iTunes right now, will be released Tuesday, November 10th. Tommy T, the bassist for the Gypsy-punk group Gogol Bordello is also the younger brother of bass extraordinaire, Henock Temesgen, who also collaborated with Tommy T. Although this is Tommy T’s first solo album, he is definitely not new to the music scene. Before joining Gogol Bordello, Tommy had been a well sought after studio and tour bassist in the Ethiopian music scene. In the past he has managed musicians such as Admas, Gigi and Wayna. In addition he ran his own label called C-Side Entertainment.

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The Brothers

The Prester John Sessions consists of 11 tracks. Backed by the Abyssinia Roots Collective, Tommy T plays the bass guitar, acoustic guitar, keyboards and bouzouki (a stringed instrument from Greece).

The Collective also includes Mikias Abebayehu on drums and percussion; Zakki Jawad on guitar; Beniam Bedru on keyboards; Andrea Fabbri on tenor and alto saxophones and David Sislen on alto, tenor and baritone saxophones. Additional musicians include Henock Temesgen on bass; Jorga Mesfin on tenor saxophone and ewi; Setegne Atenaw on massinko; DeAndre Shaifer on trumpet and flugelhorn; Pedro Erazo on percussion; Adu on African congas and talking drums; Derek Wille on keyboards; Gigi, Abdi Nuressa, Eugene Hutz and Pedro Erazo on vocals.

Abyssinia Roots Collective
From L to R: Zakki Jawad, Andrea Fabbri, Tommy T, David Sislen, Mikias Abebayehu and Beniam Bedru

From the first song to the last song the CD takes you on a tour of Ethiopia via various music genres. The first song, “Brothers” was co-written with old brother Henock. Beniam on organ does a beautiful job—simple but to the point. And then Setegne with his massinko takes the song to another level. I swear the gods of the massinko must have breathed on him. The “Call” is straight up reggae, where Tommy tells his beloved that he has come to her.

The “Response” is where his lady (Gigi) declares her love for him. “The Eighth Wonder” and “Beyond Fasiladas” are Tommy’s ode to Lalibela and Gondar. Lailbela (a town in Wello) is known as the Eighth Wonder of the world for its hand-carved churches and Gondar is known for the castle built by King Fasiladas. “Tribute to A King” is a wonderful tribute to the late great Tilahun Gessesse (although the song was conceptualized and recorded before his death on April 19, 2009) and The Imperial Bodyguard Band. Here Tommy adapts the horns from “Aykedashem Libe” (My heart will not betray you). “September Blues” is adapted from “Minew Teleyshegn” (Why did you leave me?) a song sung by Girma Negash.

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The Response feat Gigi

The piece starts with the sound from an LP as the needle makes contact. Jorga plays the intro to the song repeatedly throughout the song while Andrea goes on a rampage. Gigi wrote and performed “Eden” right there in the studio. The vocals intertwining with the flugelhorn is breathtaking. “Oromo Dub (Cushitic Dub)” incorporates two famous songs in Oromiffa. The same song is re-mixed to give life to “Lifers” where his band mates from Gogol: Eugene and Pedro lend their vocals in English and Spanish.

This was an indeed a labor of love for Tommy and it shows.

From the opening track to the closing track you can see the passion and hard work he and his fellow musicians put in. Encourage him to do something even more extraordinary by buying his CD and for those who are in the DC area by attending his CD premier concert on Friday, November 27, 2009 at Station 9 in Washington DC. Yes, contemporary Ethiopian music is in trouble but with the likes of Tommy T and friends it might make a turn for the better.

More information about Tommy T and his music can be found at the following sites:
Tommy T website
Tommy T on Myspace
Tommy T on Facebook

41 Responses to “TPJS”

  1. 1 tpeace

    EJye is back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. 2 datdude

    I think i’m in love with mikaya behailu….

  3. 3 DawitK

    EJ, once again great post! Your musical insight is invaluable and you KNOW you’ve been missed.

    I’m already looking forward to your next article :-)

  4. 4 justme

    Ej… BACK!!thanks for the post..!!! We have missed you man.

  5. 5 luli

    Awesome post!!! I’ve missed Gigi … looking forward to the event on the 27th!

  6. 6 Nolawi

    am not going to be there… the event i mean…

  7. 7 temelkach

    wonderful review

  8. 8 Hiwot

    great music!

    Bernosoch, do you carry the Ethiopia t he’s wearing?

  9. 9 Leo

    I’m definitely going to be there. My first habesha music concert……very excited!

  10. 10 DawitK


    No we don’t carry the tee he is wearing since it’s not our design!

  11. 11 Hiwot

    didn’t think so… thx Dawit

  12. 12 Ethio Jazz

    tpeace, justme and DawitK-thank you for the welcome. thanks everyone for you comments.
    DawitK–you may something new sometime next week :)

  13. 13 temelkach

    i like the T-shirt dude is wearing

  14. 14 Adey

    Ejey is back clap clap clap.. thanks for the article.

  15. 15 Hiwot

    temelkach wrote:

    i like the T-shirt dude is wearing

    me too!

  16. 16 Addis Lij

    great songs ….Loving it …

  17. 17 chaltu

    where does the event gonna take place ?

  18. 18 Ethio Jazz

    Thanks Adey and Addislij…

    chaltu: the concert will be on November 27 at Station 9 located at 1438 U Street NW Washington DC 20009

  19. 19 Scarlett

    Very usefull infomaction. Thank you. Keep it up

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