Ethiopiyawi Electronic defies the colonialist idea that the cultural (and monetary) value of African art increases only when Westerners pay attention to it. “I worry about appropriation and gentrification because the West.. [has had] a very abusive relationship with my continent,” Mulu says. “I also worry about this attention we are getting [from the West], like African people worry about their raw materials and lands. I think the only way for Africans to be safe here is for people from my continent to take ownership of their cultural evolution.
As Western labels, DJs and producers continue to look to Africa as a source for “obscure” records to be “discovered”, often with little or no financial remuneration for the original artists, the spectre of colonialism feels close and sinister.
“People aren't appropriating just because they love something,” Mulu says. “They are appropriating because they think this is the next big thing. My continent is the future and everyone knows it. This is their gold rush, and I am horrified by it.
Mulu has become involved in a pan-African music platform, Crudo Volta. Run by Rome-based collective Python Syndicate, which has released documentaries on African electronic genres like gqom (in Durban) and afrobass (in Accra), they recently unveiled a new miniseries, Taxi Waves, which showcases a new wave of artists from Lagos, Maputo, and Addis Ababa.