Listen to the second track
UPDATE: Reripped at 320kbps with formerly missing track 2 and reupped by reader request here.
[Originally posted on April 22, 2012.] As you know if you read the previous post, I was down in Washington, DC, this weekend to give a reading with younger experimental poet Megan Ronan and legendary language poet (and a major hero of mine) p. inman. I visit DC somewhat regularly, at least once or twice a year, almost always seeing a number of poet friends while I'm there.
I've long known that DC is home to the country's largest Ethiopian community, and I was certain I'd someday stumble onto an Ethiopian bodega or music store where I might pick up a few musical treasures, old and new. But it never happened. So, when Bryan Koen and Mel Nichols invited me to read for Ruthless Grip, I hinted that I'd be searching out Ethiopian music while I was there and--lo and behold--received an email back from Bryan with the address of Nahom Records Inc., situated a bit east of where I had spent the last decade trying futilely to find any of this stuff.
How excited was I? On Friday, the day of the reading, I sat bolt upright in bed at 6:00 a.m. and managed to Amtrak it down the nation's capital by 11:30. I was at Nahom's door at precisely 11:47. They weren't open. I called the number on a sign near the door and was told that someone would be in in about an hour. I walked down the street a bit and had a long, leisurely Ethiopian lunch.
An hour later, I emerged from the restaurant, my belly bloated with injera, the sponge bread that, unfortunately, you use in lieu of utensils. Unfortunately, as it means you wind up eating a lot of it. And injera expands throughout the day as it makes its way slowly down your intestinal tract.
So I go back to Nahom and I see that the lights are on and I can hear music coming out of the store. But the metal gate standing between me and the front door is locked. I stand there, frustrated, about ready to call the number again, when an older Ethiopian man comes up to me and asks me if I'm looking for Ethiopian music. I say yeah, but that I'm not sure if Nahom is really open yet.
"Across the street," he says. "At the market."
"They have music?" I ask.
He motions with his head for me to follow him as he crosses the street and leads me into Habesha Market & Carryout (1919 9th Street NW), which was packed with people, some having coffee at tables, others buying bread and other staples. My guide pointed to the barista area, behind which I saw a small but well-stocked section of the wall with a bunch of CDs and DVDs.
I don't care how nice a person is--and the women behind the counter were incredibly sweet and helpful--it's just frustrating when you're forced to have to point and grunt at CDs until you find a few things you think might be good bets. Especially in a hopping joint like Habesha; a line began to quickly form behind me, ensuring that I would feel more awkward than I already did, what with all of the pointing and grunting and clear lack of knowledge about what I was pointing and grunting at. Add 5 or 6 guys waiting for their coffee, and, well--let's just say I didn't stay there quite as long as I typically would at one of these places.
I did, however, come home with a few mind-blowing treasures, all of which I'll share over the coming days and weeks. This incredible CD is one of them.