(NORTH ADAMS, Mass.). – Debo Band, the Boston-based group led by Ethiopian-American saxophonist Danny Mekonnen, fronted by charismatic vocalist Bruck Tesfaye, and specializing in vintage Ethiopian pop-funk, headlines Rock the Block, a festival produced by the Performing Arts Management (PAM) class at performs at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA), taking place on Sunday, May 6, 2012, from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Main Street. The free, street-wide block party will celebrate and embrace cultural interaction throughout North Adams through music and dance.
Other groups slated to appear at the festival are the MCLA Jazz Band, Allegrettos A Capella Group, the Drury Jazz Band, and Spooky and the Nomads. Other MCLA groups performing include the Yorick Shakespeare Club, Nexxus Step Team, and Harlequin Musical Theatre Club. In addition, DJ Leila will perform throughout the day, beginning at 2 p.m. and ending at 7 p.m. Downtown businesses and a variety of Berkshire vendors also will join the block party, connecting and sharing with the North Adams community by offering business specials, as well as later hours of operation.
Since its inception in 2006, the Debo Band has toured Ethiopia twice, having appeared at both the Ethiopian Music Festival in Addis Ababa and Sauti Za Busara in Zanzibar, the largest music festival in East Africa. In North America, they’ve shared stages with Gogol Bordello, The Family Stone, Tilahun Gessesse (one of the great voices of Ethiopian pop since the 1960s), The Ex with Ethiopian sax legend Getatchew Mekuria, Group Doueh, and Khaira Arby and Her Band. They’ve also performed at Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, The Kennedy Center, Montreal Jazz Fest, globalFEST 2012 at Webster Hall, Joe’s Pub, and World Music Festival: Chicago.
The Debo Band’s self-titled debut album will be released on July 10, 2012, by Next Ambiance/Sub Pop. Debo has won raves for its groundbreaking take on Ethiopian pop music, which incorporates traditional scales and vocal styles alongside American soul and funk rhythms, and instrumentation reminiscent of Eastern European brass bands — accordion, violins, horns and drums. The album was produced by Thomas “Tommy T” Gobena of Gogol Bordello, recorded at Machines with Magnets (Battles, Deer Tick) and mastered by Grammy nominated engineer Joe LaPorta at The Lodge.
The Ethiopian pop-funk that Debo Band plays is the same music that inspired Dr. John’s recent critically acclaimed album, Locked Down, produced by Dan Auerbach of Black Keys.