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  • Writer's pictureThe Sound Cafe

Experimental Ethiopian Supergroup Comes To North America This Fall

Live and direct from the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia’s QWANQWA make their North American debut this fall; embarking on their very first U.S. tour of 23 states over three months — including performances at Chicago’s Hyde Park Jazz Festival, the Boston University Global Music Festival, Freight and Salvage in Berkeley, CA, The Cedar Center in Minneapolis, and more.

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 singular sound is built 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 forged a new sound rooted in centuries-old traditions — yet exploratory, open, and future-facing.

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.

Since then, QWANQWA has become an integral and constant presence on the Addis Ababa music scene, and has released three critically-acclaimed albums, Volume One (2014) and Volume Two (2015); and Volume Three (2020). They’ve rocked audiences on two major European tours with knockout shows at the Roskilde and WOMEX festivals in 2016 and 2017, and members of QWANQWA have performed with some of the biggest names in Ethiopian music and beyond: Getachew Mekuria, Mahmoud Ahmed, Mulatu Astatke, The EX, Thurston Moore, Fred Frith, Butch Morris, and more.

In 2020 QWANQWA was poised to make their North American debut, with a 48-date U.S. tour, backed by a grant from the MacArthur Foundation. Now, following three years of planning, pandemics, and postponement, the long-awaited QWANQWA U.S. debut is finally happening in 2022, from September through November. Don’t miss the crucial African musical events of 2022!

QWANQWA 2022 U.S. Tour Dates

9/3: Waynesville NC — FOLKMOOT

9/4 Black Mountain, NC — White Horse

9/8 Durham, NC — Motorco Music Hall

9/9 - 9/10 Greensboro, NC — NC Folk Festival

9/12 Atlanta, GA — The 529

9/15 Champaign Urbana, IL — Spurlock Museum of World Cultures

9/17 Boston, MA — Boston University Global Music Fest

9/18 Cedar Rapids, IA — Legion Arts

9/24 Chicago, IL — Hyde Park Jazz Festival

9/25 Milwaukee, WI — University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Recital Hall

9/26 Minneapolis, MN — Cedar Center (Global Roots Festival)

9/28 Boulder, CO — Dairy Center

10/1 Ivins, UT —Kayenta

10/2 Springdale, UT — Z-Arts

10/3 Las Vegas, NV — Sahara West Library

10/4 Las Vegas, NV — Whitney Library

10/5 Las Vegas, NV — Winchester Cultural Center

10/8 Topanga, CA — Corazon Center for Arts

10/13 Santa Cruz, CA — Kuumbwa

10/14 Berkeley, CA — Freight & Salvage

10/15 Healdsburg, CA — Little Saint

10/16 Shasta, CA - Jefferson Center

10/17 Eugene, OR — WOW Hall

10/18 Portland, OR — Mississippi Studios

10/21 Seattle, WA — Town Hall Seattle

10/22 Boise, ID — The Olympic

10/27 Rochester, NY — Eastman School of Music Presents

10/28 Troy, NY — Sanctuary for Independent Media

10/29 Flushing, Queens, NY — Flushing Town Hall

11/2 Belfast, ME — Colonial Theatre

11/3 Portland, ME — Space Gallery

11/4 Keene, NH —Nova Arts Fiddle Madness

11/5 Beacon, NY — Howland Cultural Center

11/6 Saratoga Springs, NY — Caffe Lena

11/9 Pittsburgh, PA — City of Asylum

11/10 Elkins, WV — The Old Brick Playhouse

11/11 & 12 Marlinton, WV — Pocahontas County Opera House

11/15 Philadelphia, PA - Boot & Saddle

11/16 New Haven, CT — Café 9

11/17 Hartford, CT — Real Art Ways

11/18 Putney, VT — Next Arts

11/19 Amherst, MA — The Drake

Additional Dates TBA


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