On March 21, 2014, Debo Band performed at Juniata College as part of the Juniata Presents series. It was quite apparent this would be a more animated performance than most. During the first song, Bruck Tesfeye on vocals encouraged the audience to participate and more than a few were willing. Debo Band consists of eleven members. The style of music is Ethiopian pop music. According to the information pamphlet at the concert, this style of music was only popular during the late 60’s and early 70’s. In the mid-70’s Ethiopia was submerged in what would become a long period of civil unrest. Political powers caused great conflict and night clubs and other entertainment venues were essentially shut down. Musicians were presented with no other choice than to disband and move on.
Fast forward to 2006 and the Debo Band have taken the Ethiopian pop music style and mixed it with some American genres to create their own style. This method of remixing and presenting a new style to audiences allows new generations to experience styles of music which would otherwise become extinct. The large assortment of group members was as diverse as the audience. It was a skillful example of how people from such varied backgrounds and experiences could come together to form such a unified sound. This unity was apparent on stage as each member had opportunity to showcase their instrument and talents. Their commradery created a participatory link with the audience.
This bond with the audience was established almost instantly as Tesfeye encouraged the audience to clap along. Before long, his energetic performance was infectious and many abandoned their seats in favor of dancing near the stage. Diversity was the mood of the night. As a spectator, I enjoyed seeing such a diverse and unexpected group of people enjoy the dancing. There were families, small children, students, professors, alumni and other community members. Even those who enjoyed the comforts of their seats were seen clapping, chair dancing and enjoying the uplifting rhythm of the music. Overall, the evening was a great escape and perfect insertion of culture into not just the Juniata community but Huntingdon as well. As always, I look forward to the next performance on campus.