Ejigayehu "Gigi" Shibabaw sings in the Amharic language of her native Ethiopia, with her keening voice negotiating richly ornamented melodies.
Ejigayehu "Gigi" Shibabaw sings in the Amharic language of her native Ethiopia, with her keening voice negotiating richly ornamented melodies. With help from producer Bill Laswell, Gigi's eponymous debut for Palm Pictures assimilates a wealth of influences (Indian and Arabian music, funk, jazz) to create distinctively pan-global pop music. Loping rhythms interlock with Gigi's call-and-response vocals as synthesizers and saxes (the latter provided by jazz titans Wayne Shorter and Pharoah Sanders) float above the knotted melodies. Although every track bears Laswell's high-tech imprint, the electronic elements are deployed with a subtlety not often heard on his recent productions. Gigi's vocals are never less than intense, even in the comparatively romantic setting of "Abet Wubet." Not since Mahmoud Ahmed's "Ere Mela Mela" in the '70s has Ethiopian music had such an engaging musical ambassador.—RBH