From Chicago to Addis

By JON GARELICK  |  February 9, 2006
But Shenkute dominated most numbers she performed in — through vocal attack, stage presence (a one-of-a-kind shimmy), and star power. It was a running joke throughout the evening that she rarely appeared on stage until Gershon had called for her a couple of times. Gershon was comically frustrated, but Shenkute clearly wanted to make an entrance. For the opening suite of three folkish pieces representing three different Ethiopian cultural-ethnic groups, she changed costumes three times, from white flowing robes to a brown midriff-exposing sub-Saharan-style gown decorated with cowrie shells at the hem of the blouse. When she sang “Musicawi Silt,” deploying her expressive vibrato (tight and rhythmic one moment, broadly ululating the next), she restored the vocal passage to a piece the E/O had recorded as an instrumental in their 2000 “Ethiopian Suite.” Another happy return.
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