QWANQWA
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QWANQWA

Santa Cruz, California, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2016 | SELF

Santa Cruz, California, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2016
Band World Rock

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Still working on that hot first release.

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QWANQWA is a supergroup of musicians from the best-known ensembles of Addis Ababa. Brought together by a shared passion for the power of Ethiopian music, this quintet shines an experimentalism based in the virtuosity of rooted traditions. With swirling mesenko (one-stringed fiddle), melismatic Azmari vocals, wah-wah-violin, bass krar boom (6-string lyre), and the unstoppable rhythm of heavy kebero (goat-skin drum) beats, QWANQWA keeps the people rapt in celebratory attention. After making a splash at renowned festivals such as Roskilde and WOMEX, this world traveling ensemble is coming to the US in Fall 2020 for a collaboration with rising star jazz cellist Tomeka Reid and her group Hear In Now, supported by the MacArthur Foundation's International Connections Fund.

 QWANQWA draws inspiration from East African melodies of Ethiopia and beyond. Delving deep into regional beats and moods, the repertoire ranges from a trance-like song of the Eritrean tribe of Blen, to a Somalian rock number, to Mahmoud Ahmed sing-a-longs. The music is characterized by tight arrangements and extended experimental moments. The live show ranges from intimate to wild, from whispery conversations to full-blown rock show, and it is hard to believe these psychedelic sounds are coming from traditional one-string fiddle and modern 5-string violin. It is driving, powerful, and different than anything else coming out of Ethiopia during this current Golden Age of Ethiopian music.

Created first in 2012 by American violinist Kaethe Hostetter, QWANQWA is fronted by celebrated Azmari vocalist Selamnesh Zemene, and the two leading women are joined by their long-time collaborators, veterans of the traditional/experimental scene, Endres Hassan (mesenko), Bubu Teklemariam (bass krar), and Misale Legesse (kebero). Kaethe first worked in Ethiopian music as a founding member of critically acclaimed Debo Band, and since relocating to Addis in 2009, and has participated in numerous exploratory and professional projects, honing her sound and immersing herself further into the culture of her surroundings. QWANQWA is named for the concept "music asuniversal language."

 

KAETHE HOSTETTER, violin

MISALE LEGGESE MULETA, drums

SELAMNESH ZEMENE TAYE, voice

ENDRES HASSEN AHMED, masinko

ANTENEH TEKLEMARIAM BARAGO, bass krar