London band The Krar Collective are an Ethiopian band based in London. They are a brilliant live band & have a debut album set for release in Autumn, one that’ll hopefully open them up to a wider audience, one outside of just the London Ethiopian community.
If you live in London there’s a good chance this band won’t be new to you at all – they’re one of those ‘word of mouth’ bands, a band whose live shows are so great anyone who sees them has to tell all their friends about them.
The Krar Collective are Ethiopians now living in London. The sound of the band is built around an instrument called a ‘krar’, a six stringed lyre (or harp) which, when plugged into amps & played as masterfully as the Krar Collectives Temesegen Tarekenhas (who trained under the great Mulatu Astatke) has the ability to transport you to a totally different place & time. The instrument takes the part of the lead guitar in your more conventional rock band, although in the Krar Collective it dominates their sound in a way that a guitar rarely does, giving the band a second voice alongside the vocals of Genet Asefa.
When I saw the band play Temesegen took to the stage on his own at first & launched into a quite magical tune just on the krar. Everyone was watching transfixedly, watching as his fingers moved unbelievably fast around his krar, plucking & stroking it & creating a centuries old sound both mystic & hypnotic. A quite breathtaking display of skill.
As soon as that one piece of music was over though he was joined by the rest of the band & the party really began. Whereas just listening to the Krar playing made one thoughtful & contemplative the full band sound had the opposite effect, making you lose any inhibitions & infecting you with the need to dance & smile. Despite the fact that this is quite complex music with lots going on it’s really easy to enjoy too, which is what makes it so fun.
On their Facebook page there’s a quote suggesting that they’re “raw” but frankly I think this is well wide of the mark, to me their music sounds beautifully polished & well rounded. One of the best things about the band is how the band seem to be having easily as good a time as the people dancing in front of them. Their singer, Genet Asefa, embodies this as much as anyone, never without a smile on her face as she dances enthusiastically & entertainingly through all the songs, both on her own & with the other band members. The drumming is also an intrinsic part of the Krar Collective’s sound. Again they use traditional Ethiopian instruments for drums, Kebero drums which Robel Tesfaye uses to beat out a fast, hypnotic, infectious rhythm.
The Krar Collective have a new album out in Autumn. If you like rural music in urban clothes & traditional music with a contemporary slant then this album will be for you.