Vinyl Me, Please February Edition: Ayalew Mesfin “Hasabe (My Worries)”
Vinyl Me, What? Vinyl Me, Please!!
Good things come in 12 inch packages. Delivering limited edition pressings of new and classic albums directly to your doorstep, Vinyl Me, Please operates under a simple philosophy: The Album Lives. With a carefully curated catalog of new and hard to find releases, the subscription service is more than just a record club…it’s a lifestyle choice for folks who wish Record Store Day could happen every month. In their living room.
Here’s how it works. You send Vinyl Me, Please some of your hard-earned money (plans start at $25/month) and they send you one meticulously selected album worthy of your time and attention. Easy, right? Each custom pressing (often on colored vinyl!) also comes with special features like original artwork and even a recipe for a companion cocktail. Best of all, you get access to the VMP online store. That means you’ll have a chance to grab a copy of previous VMP selections from the archives – including January’s slick throwback to Moby’s landmark album Play – not to mention a bevy of rare and exclusive releases.
This month’s store is once again stocked to the gills with killer vinyl releases including new albums from Car Seat Headrest (Twin Fantasy) and Justin Timberlake (Man of the Woods). If those releases aren’t your cup of tea, you can always get your hands on a sexy reissue of Fatboy Slim’s big beat/sample classic You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby (sky blue vinyl with coffee splatter, limited to 2,000 copies). Of course, if you’re just looking to get funky and really, really weird, you should go ahead and pick up that 2LP repressing of Isaac Hayes’ misunderstood classic Black Moses.
There’s more. A lot more. While the store is open to the public, many of the more exciting selections are only available to members, so you’ll have to sign up if you wanna get your mitts on them. If you’re peckish about relinquishing control of your record collection over to complete strangers, know that VMP’s Swaps Program is in full effect. That means you can flip any VMP pick you don’t like for a past AOM that’s a little more your speed. My advice? Don’t overthink it. Do yourself a favor and sign up today.
So, what’s in this month’s box? Break out your groovin’ shoes ’cause VMP is bringing the funk all the way from East Africa with Ayalew Mesfin’s Hasabe.
This month’s box arrived with a couple of special friends in tow, because Vinyl Me, Please had a big ass sale in January and I just couldn’t pass up these stellar, VMP Exclusive Pressings from Grandaddy and Marissa Nadler. Seriously, if you’re not watching the Vinyl Me, Please store for sales then shame on you. Now, back to our regularly scheduled unboxing.
For the Love of Music, Please DO NOT BEND
Right now, you’re probably asking yourself, “who the hell is Ayalew Mesfin?” Don’t worry, you’re not alone. To say that Team VMP dug deep for this month’s selection would be an understatement. Re-teaming with their Wells Fargo Watch Out! partners Now Again Records, Vinyl Me, Please has once again taken to the African continent to bring the music of a virtually unknown artist stateside. His name is Ayalew Mesfin. He hails from Ethiopia, where he reigned as the funkiest man in East Africa through the early ’70s. That reign ended when the Communist Derg Regime – who did not appreciate the thinly veiled political slights inherent in Mesfin’s music – took control. Mesfin was promptly imprisoned for those slights, and he was only released after signing an agreement stating that he would no longer make music.
Of course, you can’t keep a good radical down for long. Once free, Mesfin took his music underground, continuing to record new tracks even though he could not release them in his home country. As it happens, most of those songs were never released anywhere … until now. Born of conflict and oppression, and culled from those underground recordings (and prior 7″ releases), Hasabe stands as the defining document of Ayalew Mesfin’s singular career. One that puts the artist’s potent vocal stylings front and center while still featuring the unfettered, funkafied fury that makes his sound so unique.
We should warn you that there’s not a single word of English sung on the 11 tracks that made the cut for Hasabe. But even if you don’t know exactly what’s being said from one track to the next, it’s all but impossible to miss their meanings. In Mesfin’s soulfully strained vocals, you’ll hear songs of pride, prejudice, love, lust, corruption, salvation, defiance, and revolt throughout Hasabe, and you’ll hear them collected here for the very first time in album form. And yes, those songs are likely to make you shake your ass to boot.
Yes, Hasabe is a funk album, but it’s also an album rife with heavy thematic undertones, and an album that presents Ayalew Mesfin to be a man with his eyes and his mind on the future.
But What’s in the Box!?
As always, there’s more than a few sweet extras inside February’s box. But before you start digging, you’ll want have a quick look at the info on this little sticker.
Now that you understand what a special release Hasabe is, take a moment to learn a little bit about why Ayalew Mesfin’s work was chosen as February’s AOM.
And don’t forget to check the bottom of that insert so you can give a proper thank you to the VMP Staffer that personally packed you box. Thanks for the love, uh, scribble scribble?
You’re going to want to flip that insert over as well, ’cause that’s where you’ll find the recipe for Hasabe‘s companion cocktail – the “Aged Coffee Caipirinha.” It features wood aged cachaça and Ethiopian coffee, so my bet is that this “Aged Coffee Caipirinha” one seriously tasty treat.
Dig a little deeper in that box you’ll uncover this stunning, Hasabe inspired print from London-based illustrator/graphic designer Billy Clark. And if you want to know a little more about Mr. Clark’s work, you can find his story on the flip side of that landscape scene.
Did I mention that the VMP Online Store offers a killer selection of records every month? Well, they do. If you’re looking to drop some coin in this month’s shop, you’ll want to consult this handy little flyer before making any decisions as to what you’re gonna spend your money on. FYI – if you are going to spend some money this month, you should probably spend some of it on Stardust by Willie Nelson. Just sayin’.
Now, before we get to that oh-so coveted vinyl, we’re gonna take some time to check out this full-color, 16-page booklet detailing the group’s place in the annals of Ethiopia’s musical history. That story is accompanied by never before published photos of Mesfin and his Black Lion Band as well. Trust me when I say it’s a story worth reading and seeing.
Stop stalling, you say? Just show us the damn record already, you say? Fine. Gaze then upon this opulent, marbled maroon pressing of Hasabe in all of its 180g glory.
And know that you won’t be able to look away even as it spins on your deck.
How’s it sound? Like time-warping to a time and place almost unknown to the Western world and discovering that the people you find there know more about getting down and speaking truth than you ever will. This is not necessarily a bad thing.
Give It a Spin
To love music is to crave discovery. To be a Vinyl Me, Please member is to truly know what discovery is. What can I say about Ayalew Mesfin except that I’d never even heard his name until this record showed up at my doorstep, and that I’ve never heard anything quite like his Hasabe before. As this is a first ever pressing of Mesfin’s collected recordings, it’s a safe bet you haven’t either. It’s a safe bet as well that you’re gonna flip for this disc as much as I did. I’d like to thank Team VMP for helping me make this revelatory discovery, and for making every single month another marvelous musical adventure.
A big THANK YOU to our friends at Vinyl Me, Please for sponsoring this subscription. Don’t forget to check out the official Vinyl Me, Please website and sign up to get some choice wax delivered right to your door each month! And we can’t wait to spin March’s album of the month, Devotion by Beach House !