Had a soundcheck in the evening after the 2nd day's rehearsal. The venue was outdoors behind the Ghion Hotel, a huge hotel owned by Emporer Haille Selassie's grandson. The PA was brand new, Chinese speakers and cabinets bought and shipped over from Dubai. Mixing was also a brand new 24 mono channel, 4 stereo channel Soundcraft. 4 large subwoofer cabinets per side were set-up on the ground with a couple of mid/high cabinets on top for front fill. An array of about 10 mid/high cabinets were flown on each side. The outboard consisted of 4 consumer grade dbx compressors, a lower end Lexicon multi-processor and a very nice BSS 32 band graphic equalizer for the house.
As soon as I played a cd through the system ( brought a portable cd player and cable) I could tell something wsan't right. For one thing, the left and right sides were radically out of balance with the left side at least 6 dB hotter in level. The crossover was a high end dbx Loud Speaker Control System that had been plugged in but not set up.
This evening's soundcheck didn't have the full band, just the rhythm section and the singers. A full 3hour soundcheck was scheduled for the following day.
Two local female background singers were added to Material's line-up which included Bill Laswell on bass, Hamid Drake - drums, Aiyb Djieng - percussion, Dominic Kanza - guitar, ( Dominic's regular gig these days is with Angelique Kidjo), Abegasu Shiota - keys, Bernie Worrell - keys, and a horn section of Steven Bernstein - trumpet & slide trumpet, and Peter Apfelbaum - tenor sax & flute. Lead singer and star of this show, of course, is Ejigaghu ¨Gigi¨ Shibababow. Another local musician playing a mesinko ( a one-string African lute sounding something like a thick, coarse violin) was slated to sit in for one song.
For this first soundcheck I was able to get the rhythm section sounding fairly decent, however the vocal sound was nasally and abrasive, lots of mid and upper mid frequencies. After Material finished, I stayed and did a soundcheck for the opening act, whose name I didn't get. I had promised to mix their set. This artist currently has a hit song on the local radio stations. 6 songs from her album were produced by Abegasu, a resident of and well-known Producer in Addis.
As I was chcking the local band, I started to get some advice and direction form someone who actually had a good ear and knew what he was talking about. Everything he suggested made sense. Because I did what he suggested, everyone but me was happy with their sound.
The vocals still didn't sound right, so I asked Sisay, the designated system tech, for the Loudspeaker Control System manuel which I planned to study in order to set it up properly the following day. Got back to the hotel at about 11:30 pm and looked at the manuel for about 1/2 hour before retiring.
The Loud Speaker Control System is basically a mini audio computer. They're supposed to come wit a RTA ( Real Time Analyzer) mic that's set-up about 25 feet in front of the speakers and connects to the unit. The LCS generates pink noise, balances the levels between the left and right speaker stacks, and then sets a House EQ curve. It also has an Advanced Feedback Suppressor function, which, from what I can tell, is basically a series of notch filters to eliminate feedback. The way it works is that you turn all your mics on and slowly raise the level until it starts feeding back whereupon the unit detremines the likely feedback frequencies.
I arranged to get to the venue an hour early the next day to set up the LCS. On the way ove I asked Brook Girma, one of the promoters, if anyhting like the uprising going on in Egypt had happened here in Addis. He said there was one in 2005 that lasted 2 or 3 days before the miltary stepped in and ended it.
On the way, we passed Haille Sellassie's former palace. I noticed a number of white U.N. SUV's. Soçme, but not all of them had the international symbol for no automatic weapons - a picture of a black machine gun inside a red circle with a red X over the gun. This made me wonder if the U.N. vehicles without that symbol carried automatic weapons.
A military checkpoint was in full operation set-up just before the entrance to the venue. Soldiers were making a visual search and in some cases getting people to open their trunks. Traffic was backed up, so a number of street vendors and beggars approached our sedan. One child tried to sell me a pack of Venus chewing gum.
TO BE CONTINUED...