Saturday, November 12
The Experimental Ethi-opian Supergroup is coming to the Pocahontas County Opera House.
Live and direct from the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia’s QWANQWA makes its 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, California, 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 traditional Ethiopian 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 five 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.
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.
Tickets for the Opera House performance are $10 for adults and free for anyone 17 years old and younger. Tickets are available at pocahontasoperahouse.org, the 4th Avenue Gallery in Marlinton, and at the door the evening of the performance.
The Opera House Performance Series is presented with financial assistance through a grant from Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, and the West Virginia Division of Culture and History with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts. Support is also provided by Pocahontas County Dramas, Fairs and Festivals, and the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
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