Though Ejigayehu "Gigi" Shibabaw is given "featuring" status on this album, it’s really her show. For the uninitiated, Gigi is a wonderful Ethiopian singer who’s made a name for herself (in America, that is - in France she’s better known) collaborating with bassist/composer Bill Laswell on various projects - she has a nimble, melodious voice (a wee bit similar to Sheila Chandra’s, though duskier, deeper, more soulful in the "American" sense) that doesn’t overdo the melisma (where a singer "worries" or extends words, often heard in Arabic and North African music). Zion Roots is not "Afro-pop" or "world beat" or even the darkly funky modern stuff that’s come out of her country in the past 20 years or so - she and her cohorts pay tribute to the traditional music of Ethiopia, but with a welcoming joie de vive that sidesteps the pitfalls of we-are-keepers-of-the-Tradition solemnity and formalism. The hypnotic rhythms percolate, providing a mesmerizing context for Gigi’s vocal flights and some tantalizingly brief but seductive instrumental solos. Laswell’s here, too, but don’t expect the "usual" sleek, pulsing/throbbing ambiance from him - the producing is spare and streamlined, & he forsakes the bass this time ‘round for keyboards and acoustic guitar. There are undertones of jazz, gospel and reggae, but subtly - the Ethiopian trad sound is paramount, though it’s not coming out of a purist vacuum. Zion Roots is possessed of a rhythm-charged serenity and an unexaggerated, heartfelt sensuality, and clearly and opinionatedly one of the finest "world music" releases (African division) of ’03.