Is there such a thing as futuristic nostalgia? A sentimentality for a life yet to be lived? To reminisce on meals yet to be made. Words yet to be spoken. Hands yet to be held. Not just lust for something you’ve never had but the fluttering despondent wave of nostalgia swelling in your stomach. Melancholy in reverse. Listening to Muziqa Heywèté, Getatchew Mekurya’s ardent saxophone cradles me in the hazy glow of my imagined future.
Part of his Negus of Ethiopian Sax album, the 3:10 minute track is a brassy portal to our very own lands of milk and honey. The saxophone beckons desire; and stirs an acute longing for something we didn’t realise we wanted. There is also a soft sadness to the song. Maybe a mourning of a past life, a past self or a past love. Whatever the song conjures in you, it conjures something.
First released in the early 1970s, Muziqa Heywèté solidifies Mekurya’s adjacency and distinction from the popularised Ethio-Jazz genre (think Mulatu Astatke). His music comes from a more guttural and fervoured place compared to the gentle ennui of his contemporaries. This is mainly due to his saxophonic facsimile of the Ethiopian war chant, known as shellèla fukara. Traditionally shouted by warriors going into battle, Mekurya pushes this ferocity through his instrument, delivering a softer sound. A softer sound with edges hardened by suffering.
The track closes with an organ playing out the melody, leaving us squinting into the orange sun of our own desire. To ache for a fantasy can sometimes feel synonymous with recalling a past reality.