Time Capsule / US / RE 2020 / 2LP
American dub by way of Ethiopia. First time on vinyl comes this album by Ethiopian singer Ejigayehu Shibabaw aka Gigi - soundwise translated by her husband Bill Laswell giving this album his signature touch
By the time Ejigayehu Shibabaw, a.k.a. Gigi, released her self-titled U.S. debut in 2001, she had already left her native Ethiopia to join forces with bassist and producer Bill Laswell. The album was at once a cry of solidarity for the expatriate Ethiopian community, of which she had become a defining voice, and a shower of sunlight on her homeland for those ignorant of its struggles. It also attracted an unprecedented group of musicians, drawn from Laswell’s Material nexus and beyond—including reedmen Henry Threadgill, Wayne Shorter, and Pharoah Sanders, percussionists Hamid Drake and Karsh Kale, and pianist Herbie Hancock—within a fellowship of Ethiopian talents. Gigi has aged gracefully in a category all its own, having inspired many to funnel their histories into emotional art.
When, two years later, Laswell released a mix translation of Gigi, he transplanted its innermost organs with surgical precision in a realm where only the arteries of an intangible soul could find purchase. The result was a counterpart that revealed tattoos from within the original’s skin rather than applying them from without. Gigi herself sanctioned Laswell’s ambient shadows, in which her vocals receded like a dream upon waking. She saw no need to rearticulate messages indelibly recorded for posterity.
The release of Illuminated Audio came at a time when Laswell had been excavating hybrid relics of ancient and future-leaning signals alongside other dubterranean travelers on the Axiom label. That Axiom was backed by Island Records founder Chris Blackwell proved fortuitous, for his interest in Gigi would spark the collaboration that would define an era, even as an era would define the collaboration.