The Imperial Tiger Orchestra from Geneva play Ethiopian music from the golden 1970s. «We aim to re-enact this music perfectly», reveal Raphaël Anker and Cyril Moulas in an interview in 2011. These days Band presents their new Album Wax internationally. The Tigers have this time delved into the traditional azmari repertoire to uncover astonishing nuggets of synth- and horn-heavy grooviness.
We meet bassist and Krar-player Cyril Moulas and trumpet player Raphaël Anker in Geneva and ask them first of all: do musicians prepare for interviews? «No, they don’t», the two musicians of Imperial Tiger Orchestra state. It is best to offer journalists some coffee or a beer first, in order to keep them sweet. «It’s probably the same you’ll get offered in Ethiopia when visiting someone?» we’re asking back. We ask our questions in English; the two of them answer in French. This leads time and again to some confusion throughout the interview….
The Imperial Tiger Orchestra plays Ethiopian music of the 1970s (check the Norient reportage on pop-stars in Addis Abeba) (Popsterne in Addis Abeba). We’re asking them, where exactly the fascination for this sound stems from. The two gush about special scales and the modes of this music. The Imperial Tiger Orchestra aims to re-enact this Ethiopian music as accurately as possible. Raphaël Anker and Cyril Moulas are critical regarding short-run fusion-sounds.
A Swiss band covering Ethiopian Songs: What are they on about? What is the point? might some Swiss think: I’d rather listen to a real Ethiopian band! In Ethiopia however, reactions may be different. There, the people are proud: a Swiss band playing their Ethiopian music! Are any of these assumptions true, we’re asking the two musicians of Imperial Tiger Orchestra.
Contrary to many bands in the genre “world music”, the Imperial Tiger Orchestra is not looking for fusion. The band aims to re-enact meticulously the music of Ethiopia. Their role model is the anarchistic Dutch punk-band The Ex, which has done a variety of recordings with Ethiopian musicians. Some recordings on the new album of the Imperial Tiger Orchestra “Mercato” were thus produced by Jeroen Visser, sound engineer of The Ex and Ethiopian sax player Getatchew Mekurya.
Then, Raphaël Anker tells us that his father was born on the African continent – where exactly he doesn’t tell. The great interest about Ethiopia is not just musically. Anker also tells us about the close collaboration of the Imperial Tiger Orchestra with Geneva based Ethiopian singer Bethlehem Dagnachew. And: for collaboration with musicians in Ethiopia, the band does not trust the Internet. They don’t want to send audio-files back and forth.
In 2011, the Imperial Tiger Orchestra invites for the first time star musicians from Ethiopia for concerts in Switzerland – check the concert list further down. There are new questions arising: how do they get visas for all of these musicians? How do the Ethiopian stars react to the Swiss jazz-musicians? And: Is the music of the Imperial Tiger Orchestra heard in Ethiopia – or even bought? Is this even an aim of the band? That’s what we asked the musicians in conclusion of our conversation.
Sonic Traces: From Switzerland
Norient spoke to the Imperial Tiger Orchestra in the context of the project Sonic Traces: From Switzerland.