Best known for his contributions to the best-selling Ethiopiques
compilation series and the patronage of artists as diverse as Shackleton
and Peanut Butter Wolf, Mulatu is a giant of modern music who first
rose to prominence in the 60s, fusing Western jazz and funk with
traditional Ethiopian folk melodies, five tone scale arrangements and
elements from music of the ancient Coptic church. If you’ve not explored
this guy’s formidable back catalogue before, what on earth have you
The Heliocentrics are a London-based collective whose 2007 album Out There, released through Stones Throw offshoot Now-Again, is a psychedelic jazz odyssey that explicitly invokes the spiris of Sun Ra, David Axelrod and, of course, Mulatu Astatke. Inspiration Information finds the band collaborating at length with their North African hero; the hook-up came about in April 2008 when Karen P asked Heliocentrics to back Mulatu on his first UK live date in over 15 years. The gig was a roaring success - and can still be streamed here - and it was decided that a studio session was in order.
The bulk of recording took place at Quatermass Studios, an analogue set-up in East London, over the week of September 8th-14th, 2008. The Heliocentrics were joined not just by Astatke but by a bunch of London-based Ethiopian musicians including Yezina Nagash, Mesafnit Nagash and Dawit Gebreab, contributing traditional sounds coaxed from such instruments as the krar (six-stringed, five tone thingy), washint (bamboo flute) and Begena (15th century 10-string).