Qwanqwa: Volume Two – album review
Qwanqwa – Volume 2 (FPE Records)
8 / 10
Modern experimental Ethiopian quartet release their new album. Louder Than War’s Paul Scott-Bates reviews.
As the title suggests, this is Qwanqwa’s (translated as ‘language’) second album. An album of traditional Ethiopian music which has been given a modern and experimental twist. It sounds fab.
Formed in 2012 when Kaethe Hostetter (violin) moved from Boston USA to Addis Ababa and met up with fellow members Mesele Asmamaw (electric krar), Dawit Seyoum (bass krar) and Samson Sendeku (percussion) the band soon began exploring and creating a fusion between longstanding music and a new sound of their own. The resulting mix is one that would please both lovers of New World Music and something a little different.
Recorded at Langano Studios last year, Volume Two enhances several styles apart from traditional sounds including jazz, afro-beat and psychedelia which makes the collection of six (largely) instrumental tracks both endearing and entertaining.
Selam Selam has a gorgeous riff which continues throughout with a basic, if not intriguing beat. It loops and spirals creating a musical addiction that leaves the listener demanding more, indeed the whole album whilst not immediate at first, does grow in time.
The mammoth, eleven minute Tezeta begins with what can only be described as ‘tuning up’ but soon adds vocals and takes a good four minutes before breaking into a musical arrangement as such. When it does, it is completely fascinating as Keathe’s violin knits together a simply sumptuous melody.
Mela Mela rocks things up a little with a more jazz influenced sound over a great bassline, and almost begs for a dub version of the track to be forthcoming. Album closer Gorage is the most upbeat track on the record as yet another highly compelling hook brings together some more incredibly engrossing violin sounds which many times during the album help mould the whole sound of Qwanqwa together.
All words by Paul Scott-Bates. More of Paul’s writing on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive. Paul’s website is hiapop Blog and you can follow him on Twitter here, and on Facebook here. You can also follow him on Twitter as @saveonthewire for all On The Wire news.