– Or how the guys who sat behind me in Maths became famous overnight –
This is Little Ethiopia. If you don’t know them right now, it’s understandable; these guys are very fresh in the music business. One might even say they are fresh at life itself; their age has been a constant point of reference by reporters, having had their first radio hit at seventeen. Yet their approach to playing in crowds is much more mature than many bands I have ever seen. They seem amused by huge crowds, instead of bewildered; and the shy, grateful smiles here and there show a massive sense of sobriety that is rare to see these days. It leads me to believe that they are slowly tempting their way across the music business; that they do not plan on gorging and stuffing themselves with the illusion of fame. There exists no doubt in my mind that it won’t be very long before these dudes move from Mexican stages and begin to sweep people off their feet internationally.
I probably shouldn’t be doing this – a review about a band that I know personally. Admitting that I know them is probably another thing I shouldn’t be doing. However, in hopes that this brief bit of honesty will somehow evoke sympathy, I persist: I will not be biased.
Well, maybe a little.
It is not every day, though, one gets to write a profile on two extraordinarily talented guys that just so happen to be their classmates. In order to make this review a little more relevant, I will write a little about the precedents of the group Little Ethiopia – from my perspective.
I know what this article looks like. I guess, in the world of fame, everyone will say that they knew you some time or other. Going to the same school, same choir practice, even playing badminton with your sister’s boyfriend’s uncle somehow becomes relevant; and, of course, suddenly, they have been your best friends for years (“I just knew he was talented, from the moment I met him!”)
In all honesty, I doubted if Little Ethiopia was even a real band in the beginning. I remember; it was early 2011 and someone had mentioned that José and Santiago had been messing around since last year with some music equipment at home – and it was around this time that the Little Ethiopia label began to circulate around our group of friends on Facebook, appearing on random photos and walls. If I had been paying enough attention, I might have realized that these two things were connected. I did not, though; I was used to my small school’s quirky habits of artistic experimentation, and I ignored it. A month passed, and the first single was posted: ‘Just A Few’. I was very impressed, I remember, listening to the rasping riffs of their synth-pop, electro-punk style; though not impacted enough to actually think there would be a continuity to their project.
‘South’ came out shortly after, followed by ‘Devil’s Feet’, and with each song there was an increase in their confidence: everything subsequent to that began to make their intentions clearer. Not only had the band been applying their charmingly mysterious spam on us; they had been doing the same technique all around the internet. The name Little Ethiopia began to be nervously jittered by music bloggers around: Who were they? What genre did they follow (for it became clear that no one could label them into a specific style; and, as you know, our society gets a kick out of labeling)? Perhaps most frequently asked, Why was their art so creepy?
Suddenly, Little Ethiopia wasn’t a local joke anymore. That became apparent when El Babuino, an influential Mexican music blogger and local-artist-enthusiast, wrote a piece covering them – from there onwards their music career took off.
Their gigs have ranged from opening acts for El Guincho, School of Seven Bells and Summer Camp; as well as appearing at the internationally-acclaimed festival Corona Capital, at the Foro Sol in Mexico City. I remember being in maths class with Santiago the day before the Corona, him chewing thoughtfully on his pen, when I couldn’t hold it any longer and blurted out: “How can you sit here when tomorrow you’re going to be playing in front of thousands of people?” He just quietly laughed away the question and shook his head. To this date I am not even sure what was going on his mind at the time.
Little Ethiopia have, since then, developed a much more sturdy sound; and a growth in character has led to a striking profoundness of their lyrics. Perhaps one of their most spirited songs for me has been ‘Young Love and Nightmares’, where the line That’s why she’ll be the perfect housewife is to me one of the harshest judgements of the day;
…but in reality, their whole EP stands true on its own. It is an EP to savour and sink oneself into. Whether it is your kind of music or not, you cannot deny that the Little Ethiopia integrants are in control of their own sound; and slowly, but surely, carving themselves deeply into the Mexico City music scene.
Follow them on Twitter: @littlethiopia or visit their Bandcamp.
Follow Federico González on Twitter: @federicoglzsosa