Led by singer Bruck Tesfaye and Ethiopian-American saxophone player Danny Mekonnen (trained ethnomusicologist and party-starter par excellence), Debo Band make the kind of joyous, jubilant noise that can only come from a band of 11 players with diverse backgrounds and influences. Drawing on the traditions of the 1960s “golden age” of Ethiopian pop, Debo Band augments lost classics and new creations with a modern and distinctively Debo Band energy, bringing in elements of jazz, klezmer, funk, rock, and just about anything else that may have reached the band’s ears along the way.
But despite Mekonnen’s vast knowledge of the history of Ethiopian and other pop and folk music, and a reverence for what came before him, once they hit the stage Debo Band are definitely not a stuffy intellectual affair. An explosion of sax, sousaphone, accordion, violin and other instruments gives the band’s songs a life of their own. Audiences may unwittingly be given a history lesson every time Debo Band preform, but they’re likely to be too busy dancing to notice.