Fusions for the 21st Century

Melding indigenous folk traditions with Western jazz and high-tech pop, world music forges a vital new sound

In her native Africa, singer Aster Aweke is so popular that she has been dubbed "Ethiopia's Donna Summer." But Aweke, who grew up listening to Aretha Franklin and Billie Holiday, always dreamed of being a hit in America. Now, nine years after moving to the U.S., she has achieved her goal. Her album Kabu (Columbia Records) reached No. 4 on Billboard's World Music chart. Kabu gets its power from Aweke's vocals, which soar above a lush weave of Ethiopian folk melodies and American jazz and pop, evoking sunny images of love and life in her rural homeland. Yet most fans who...

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