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Film Africa 2016: Roaring Abyss Review

roaring abyss

By on 20/11/2016

Roaring Abyss expands both your eyes and ears as you’re immersed in a world that spans the rich culture of Ethiopia.


It is not your typical documentary. Roaring Abyss is more of a collage of musical performances across Ethiopia’s diverse musical soundscape. Ethiopia is a country with a wide cultural history and over 80 different languages – Roaring Abyss gives you a slice of this.

Roaring Abyss synopsis

Directed by Quino Piñero Roaring abyss is a musical road movie across Ethiopia. Its full of field recordings of all forms of traditional music – from wind orchestras from the time of Emperor Haile Selassie to the Azmari, the Ethiopian equivalent of European bards. These are traditional pieces, using scales very different from Western music, involving instruments like the washent, masinko, krar and begena. The result is a fascinating document of music that has been passed on from generation to generation for centuries.
roaring abyss


Film Africa Festival

Roaring Abyss was the closing movie of the Royal African Society’s Film Africa Festival for 2016 at the Ritzy Picturehouse in Brixton. It is an annual London film festival that celebrates the best in African cinema

Film Africa at a glance from Film Africa on Vimeo.


Roaring Abyss is a a musical road movie across Ethiopia

Roaring Abyss is a documentary that sucks you in. There is no real beginning, middle or end but its more of a journey both literally and figuratively into the music and the vast and beautiful landscape that is Ethiopia.


As we go from town to town we experience the field recordings of the many musicians we encounter on this journey. There are no translations of the music itself or the dialogue between people throughout the film. Only when the musicians are talking directly to the camera to tell their story is this dialogue subtitled. This purposeful act results in an audiovisual landscape that sucks you in and doesn’t let go.  This keeps you concentrated on the beautiful sights and the power of the music rather than what people are actually saying. One scene in particular, we are taken on a first person view through a busy Ethiopian market with all its people food, sights, sounds, live animals and organised chaos is truly amazing and immersive you feel that you’re walking through these crowds.


That music is absolutely amazing. Over the two year course of filming we’re exposed to artists playing traditional Ethiopian instruments through to the modern musicians of today. Music studios, night spots, forests, desserts, markets, villages and more – the movie crash land us into all these environments.


What results is a music led collage of landscapes and people that will immerse you in the world of diverse musical heritage Ethiopia across its 87 minutes


In conclusion

Roaring Abyss gives a chance director Quino Piñero to flex his skills both as a seasoned sound engineer and movie director. The sheer quality of the field recordings are truly amazing and immersed the cinema in lush sounds. Roaring Abyss is an educational insightful and purely entertaining journey into the culture and musical heritage of Ethiopia. I highly recommend it


The screen talk

Quino Piñero was in attendance at the screening where he spoke about the two year process of making the film. He also explained how the field recordings he has collected over the years have been made into an album released on Sheba Sound



The afterparty

Upstairs at The Ritzy we were given an amazing free afterparty, with DJ Yonatan playing Ethio-jazz/funk and the Dan Kira dancers taking us through the night.


It was such a great night and an amazing close to the festival. Keep an eye out for the Film Africa festival returning next year –