Live Review: Dereb The Ambassador, DJ Huwston

11 June 2013 | 11:49 am | Andrew McDonald

Dereb’s already impressive vibrations and charisma became positively infectious.

Ethopian Dereb Desalegn is hardly a man known to most, so its perhaps suitable that he, performing with a seven-piece backing band as Dereb the Ambassador, should kick off The Basement's 'World Music Wednesdays' event.

First and foremost, Dereb's seven-piece band got a chance to show off its own musical chops, performing a groovy intro tune before the man took to the stage. The saxophone and percussion-driven instrumental served as a great overview of the tone the audience would be experiencing for the rest of the night - jazzy, groove-driven and dripping with funk.

Once Dereb himself inauspiciously walked on stage though, it was an entirely different affair. Most immediately striking was the man's voice - an impeccably powerful, soulful and passionate tenor-baritone that danced in and out of the neat funk his band was pumping out. The music was as much a mid-'70s Miles Davis fusion affair as it was a Middle Eastern dance party as it was a modern tribal chant night. No matter what it was, it was impossible not to dance to it and once the crowd did get on their feet, Dereb's already impressive vibrations and charisma became positively infectious. No one could say they were not entranced by the act, even if the second set was a more straightforward jazz-rock fusion outing.

Separating the group's two sets was resident DJ Huwston, who kept the crowd entertained with a beat and groove-heavy set of obscure and soulful electronic.

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'World music' is, as a term, so often maligned or misunderstood, with every generic, mildly tribal-sounding folk group getting thrown into he broad label. Dereb and his band transcend this cliché with ease and class. Through channelling a multitude of influences, cultural ideas and approaches into his own, uniquely Ethiopian brand of funk and soul, he has actually earned the term. The odds of his music catching on fire in the wider zeitgeist are too slim to even mention, though this makes each song, movement and wail all the more special. If The Basement was looking for a strong way to begin its weekly world music nights, they could hardly have asked for a better one.