Qwanqwa “takes traditional music and rocks it up a bit” (Byron Coley, The Wire) and “for sure is an incredible experimental traditional Ethiopian rock group that deserves to be played in every living room, at every party and on every radio station from Gondar to Santa Cruz.” (Addis Rumble blog). If you’ve heard the golden age of Ethiopian pop as immortalized by the Ethiopiques series some more recent releases on Mississippi records, and wondered why no one was rocking like that in the now – you can stop wondering. They’re doing it. You just didn’t get to hear it yet. Qwanqwa bridges generations and continents, making a huge sound that you can only hear if you’re here, right now.
Groovy and familiar, yet stimulating and heady, the tunes swim through your aural consciousness, providing equal parts enjoyment and confoundment. Qwanqwa vibes with appreciators all types, be it indie blog-followers, jazz enthusiasts, afrobeaters, music theory heads, hippies, or coffee drinkers reading the New York Times.
Inter-generational and inter-continental, Qwanqwa consists of Ethiopian musicians Mesele Asmamaw (electric krar), Dawit Seyoum (electric bass krar), and Samson Sendekou (percussion), and American violinist Kaethe Hostetter (also of Boston-based Ethio-funk band Debo Band), who formed Qwanqwa after moving to Addis Ababa in 2012 to fully immerse herself in the ocean that is Ethiopian music. Volume Two is their second album, recorded at Langano Studios in Addis Ababa in 2014.
Were Ornette Coleman still with us, I’ve little doubt he would enthusiastically endorse this sophomore effort by Qwanqwa, an instrumental Addis Ababa-based quartet that integrates a number of disparate styles into its bold take on indigenous traditional music.