The Groove Seeker: Woima Collective’s Tezeta

On a weekly basis, The Groove Seeker goes in search of killer grooves across rock, funk, hip hop, soul, electronic music, jazz, fusion, and more.

Woima Collective: TezetaWoima Collective: Tezeta (Kindred Spirits, 11/15/10)

Woima Collective: “Wayna”

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The Woima Collective has produced a remarkable set of Ethiopian-styled grooves with its debut record, Tezeta, released on the Netherlands-based record label Kindred Spirts. Including the brass-section members of the internationally respected German funk outfit Poets of Rhythm, the Collective channels the sweet funk and jazz rhythms of Mulatu Astatke, with a sound that matches his legendary 1960s and ’70s recordings.

Led by tenor saxophonist Johannes Schleiermacher, who was inspired by the African rhythms found during his travels through Morocco, the 10-musician collective has one of the tightest rhythm sections in the contemporary scene. Though originally brought together to record a single at the Lovelite Facility in Berlin, the Collective soon turned the one-time session in a full-blown album, rehearsing and recording Tezeta in only five days.

Creating a cohesive record in five days with disciplined arrangements and complex instrumental dynamics calls for an extremely talented group of musicians, and it’s quite clear the Collective knows its North African music. Tezeta is filled with bottom-heavy percussion brought to life with horn-driven grooves decorated by guitar-plucked rhythms.

Ethiopian music takes presence from dark, pentatonic scales, giving the music a hypnotic and smooth nature. The Collective takes this approach and leaves it open-ended, allowing ample room for instrumental spotlights and extended solos. Album opener “Marz” is a fitting introduction to the group, with groovy organ and brass solos that can only be described as snake-like. It is reminiscent of the work of Sun Ra, but with very distinct African horn phrases.

Tracks such as “Woima” and “Puno” have an intrinsically sinister quality, partly due to the forboding horn lines that threaten to go atonal at a moment’s notice, but also because of the fuzzy drone organ that keeps it all together. Underlying it all, however, is a slight tinge of funk, heard best on “Wayna” and “Illusions,” tracks that swing hard with a wide array of reed solos and funky guitar licks.

Tezeta is an album with an excellent tonal texture that is matched by world-class musicianship. The Woima Collective has combined funk aesthetics with otherworldly melodic modes. The outcome is a beautiful blend of relentless breakbeat rhythms typical of the European funk scene with the unique melodic pulse of North Africa.

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