Based in Ethiopia's capital city Addis Ababa, the quartet Qwanqwa (whose name is Amharic for "language") create an inventive, experimental interpretation of the country's traditional sounds.
Qwanqwa's music is vibrant, free-flowing, and natural-sounding, and the band utilizes unique instrumental techniques involving distortion pedals and found objects. The group began in 2012 after Käthe Hostetter, violinist for Boston-based Ethiopian funk group Debo Band, moved to Addis Ababa in order to explore the country's musical culture and collaborate with local musicians. The other bandmembers are veteran composer/arranger Mesele Asmamaw on electric krar (a bowl-shaped stringed instrument), Dawit Seyoum on electric bass krar, and percussionist Samson "Sami" Sendeku. Qwanqwa's sound is primarily instrumental in order to reach a universal audience, but they have collaborated with numerous Ethiopian singers, including Hamelmal Abate, Selamnesh Zemene, and Etenesh Wassie. The group has also worked with many musicians including clarinetist Dawit Frew, Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, and saxophone player Jeroen Visser (who is also in Trio Kazanchis along with Asmamaw). Qwanqwa frequently perform concerts in unconventional settings in order to reach audiences that don't attend gigs at nightclubs or other typical venues. The group's first album, Volume One, was released on cassette by Chicago-based FPE Records in 2014. The label released Volume Two on CD and LP the following year. ~ Paul Simpson, Rovi