This is one of the better-known songs by percussionist Mulatu Astatke.  His music has a sound and style all its own, and Yekatit is a good example.  The whole song is based on a 5-note scale:

Yekatit chord scale

This scale is just two triads on top of each other, Bb minor (Bb Db F) and an A major (A Db/C# E), and the tension between these two sounds really makes the song.  The melody describes a Bb minor tonality, but the bass is always playing an A chord underneath.  It’s not until the B section that the polarity is flipped and the melody comes to rest on an A major sound.  The soft but insistent buzzing of dissonance in the low frequencies reminds me of the tingling numbness I feel when I’m out walking on a freezing cold day.  I was pleased to learn that Yekatit means “February” in Amharic.


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