QWANQWA is a five-piece improvisatory ensemble based in Addis Ababa, dedicated to furthering Ethiopia’s unique string traditions. Inspired by a shared passion for Ethiopian music, the group brings together some of the most accomplished traditional players in the country; creating a space to explore new sounds and break the rules in an otherwise conservative musical culture.
QWANQWA takes its name from the Amharic word for “language,” dedicated to creating musical dialogues between cultures and the proposition that music is a universal language that transcends borders. Their distinct sound is grounded on an array of Ethiopian traditional instruments. The group consists of Endris Hassen on mesenko (one string fiddle), Bubu Teklemariam on bass krar (Ethiopian lyre), Selamnesh Zemene on vocals, Misale Legesse on kebero (goat skin drum), and Kaethe Hostetter on 5-string electric violin. Together they’ve developed a new sound rooted in centuries-old traditions.
QWANQWA was founded by American violinist Kaethe Hostetter, who first performed Ethiopian music as a founding member of Debo Band. After relocating to Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, in 2009, she dove deep into the culture, working on numerous musical projects. In 2012 Hostetter brought together some of the undisputed heavyweights in Addis Ababa’s music scene to form QWANQWA.
Zikina opens with dreamy, dance-based groove music. led by Ugandan-born Gideon Ampeire and his colleagues Mike Cardozo, Roston Kirk, and Kade Parkin.
If you like: Ethiopiques, Mulatu Astatke, Anbessa Orchestra