There has been a very small explosion of American interest in Ethiopian music in the last few years. The sounds developed by Mulatu Astatke, Mahmoud Ahmed, and the other great Ethiopian pioneers of the last few decades travel very well, and can be now found in many different places, from film soundtracks to dance clubs. The heroic reissue series called Ethiopiques has brought this music to world attention, and many of the original artists are still alive and making great music.
I've listened to a lot of Ethiopian music, and not just from the most widely-known "Golden Age" of Ethiopian pop so masterfully plumbed by Francis Falceto's Ethiopiques series. I'm talking folk music, modern pop made with synths and drum machines, and the music recorded to cassettes during the long dictatorship of the Derg from 1974 to 1987. Even so, I didn't really know what to expect when I first put on the debut from Debo Band, an 11-piece Boston band that's billed as putting its own unique spin on Ethiopian music, a spin that covers that same gamut rather than simply going to the Ethiopiques well.