In February 2018, Lake Langano in southern Ethiopia was home to the country's first ever sound system festival. The festival was put on by various organisers including the Ethiopia Xperience and King Shiloh Sound System of Amsterdam, who constructed their own custom-built sound system, specifically designed to stay in Ethiopia.
Prior to the Sound System Festival was U-Day Festival in Addis Ababa and Shashamane, which featured a host of artists and spiritual leaders from around the world. The opening night of the U-Day festival, entitled 'U-Nite', was held at Villa Verde, Addis Ababa, with the newly crowned Negus Shiloh in session alongside Empress Black Omolo and other powerful chanters on the mic.
King Shiloh Sound System live in session at the Great Ethiopian Sound System Festival 2018, alongside Ras Chubby, Afrikan Simba & Empress Black Omolo.
The following weekend, on February 9th & 10th 2018, the festival took place. It was a two-day event in an unforgettable location; Lake Langano is one of the only beaches in Ethiopia, its waters sitting at an elevation of 1,585 metres. The area surrounding the festival was truly mystic and during the time I was there, I often found myself wondering if I'd stumbled onto another planet. The cliffs, the valleys, the mountains, the palm trees, the beach, the water. All of that had blown my mind before the first record even kicked off.
Lake Langano, Ethiopia; one of the only beaches in Ethiopia and the location of the Great Ethiopian Sound System Festival 2018.
The Friday and Saturday and nights featured a variety of artists supporting the sound vocally, both local and international, including Black Omolo, Teddy Dan, Ras Kawintseb, Afrikan Simba, Sydney Salmon, Mark Joseph and more. The dance on Friday was held inside, yet due to the vibration of the bass echoing through the steel roof, and due to the fact a roof simply did not seem needed under such a beautiful sky, Saturday's dance was held outside, metres from the shore and the sand.
It was a joyous event and I was humbled to have been able to be there.
Bredda Neil of King Shiloh delivering a sound system training session in Addis Ababa, November 2018.
In November 2018, the King Shiloh team travelled to Ethiopia yet again, this time to train younger sound system enthusiasts based in Ethiopia, and to hold a few sound system sessions, naturally. The sound system is now there in Ethiopia permanently, and I for one look forward to the endless possibilities this move has produced.
The legendary Bado Igir (barefoot) man, Ras Kawintseb, in action on the sound at the Great Ethiopian Run, an annual marathon in Addis Ababa, November 2018.
Sound system culture has come a long way from its roots in Jamaica and the UK, and has finally returned to the root itself; Africa. I for one don't have to question the wisdom of this move. There is a lot of work to be done, and at a time when many young people in Ethiopia find themselves divided by pettiness, prejudice, polticis and social difference, the introduction of a sound - not just any sound, but the healing energy of roots, dub, reggae in the form of the Great Ethiopian Sound System - is a work that deserves ample praise.
Local legend Teddy Dan live in action on the sound at the Great Ethiopian Run in Addis Ababa, November 2018.
Don't just take my word for it - if you're in Ethiopia, I urge you to strive to reach the next dance. If you're stressed out, if you're feeling a lack of inspiration or motivation, if you're looking to free your mind, body and soul; let a night meditating to the sound of the Great Ethiopian Sound System be your remedy.
The Great Ethiopian Sound System collective.
Negus Shiloh Sound System, AKA the Great Ethiopian Sound System.
w/Empress Black Omolo at the Great Ethiopian Sound System Festival, Langano, Ethiopia, 2018.
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Watch my interview with Empress Black Omolo here.
See you next year at the festival!
A short video recap from my time at the Great Ethiopian Sound System Festival.