Happening in Los Angeles

QWANQWA (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) / SK Kakraba
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QWANQWA (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) / SK Kakraba

Beaming in from the sizzling Addis Ababa nightlife scene, this group shines an experimentalism based in the virtuosity of rooted traditions. With swirling masinko (one-stringed fiddle), wah-wah violin, bass krar grooves, the heavy riffs of goat skin kebero beats, and powerful mellismatic lead African diva vocals, QWANQWA keeps the people rapt in celebratory attention. QWANQWA's debut US tour of 54 concerts in Fall 2022 brought the poignant euphoric experience to storied jazz clubs, sticker slapped rock clubs, folk festivals, prestigious music institutions, street festivals, universities, and country opera houses, all the while unifying these audiences as they clap along "Music is Universal Language"

QWANQWA uncovers lesser known traditional sounds from East Africa regions of Ethiopia and beyond—a trance-like chant of the Eritrean tribe of Blen, a psychadelic Somalian cover, an extended Amhara wedding medley, a Mahmoud Ahmed sing-a-long. With Selamnesh Zemene, the Azmari diva powerhouse, at the helm, QWANQWA is a conversation of virtuosos through 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 harps, one string fiddle, and violin. Driving, powerful, QWANQWA proves we are living during another Golden Age of Ethiopian music.

The ensemble was founded in 2012 by American violinist Kaethe Hostetter, who first worked in Ethiopian music as a founding member of critically acclaimed Debo Band. Relocating to Addis in 2009, she participated in numerous exploratory and professional projects, immersing further into the culture of her surroundings. In this sense, QWANQWA, the Amharic word for “language,” is a project creating dialogues between cultures.

Members of QWANQWA are Endris Hassen (masinko), Kaethe Hostetter (violin), Bubu Teklemariam (bass krar), Selamnesh Zemene (vocalist), and Misale Legesse (kebero). They have appeared internationally with Getachew Mekuria, The EX, Thurston Moore, Fred Frith, Butch Morris, Debo Band, Badume’s Band, Nile Project, Fendika, Mahmoud Ahmed, Mulatu Astatke, Addis Acoustic, Ethiocolor, Atse Teodros, Mohammed “Jimmy” Mohammed, from Lincoln Center to Bonnaroo, Jazzfest (New Orleans), Moers Festival, Roskilde, WOMEX, WOMAD and more.

QWANQWA completed their debut US tour in Fall 2022 tour of US— 54 concerts throughout all regions of US, and in addition, many workshops, class visits, and community engagements.

They were a featured performance at Roskilde 2016 (Northern Europe’s biggest music festival), and have toured 3 times in Europe.

QWANQWA have released three albums: Volume One (2014) and Volume Two (2015), and Volume Three (2020).