I'm excited to welcome the Ethiopian band Qwanqwa to WRIR's studio this week. The band, whose name means "language" in Amharic, embodies one of the most radical ideas in music: they play traditional music in a brand new way.
Using indigenous instruments like masinko (one-stringed fiddle), krar (harp), kebero (barrel drum) and of course the human voice, they expand Ethiopia's broad musical heritage, especially the music of the azmari bards (Ethiopia's version of griots), with improvisational strategies drawn from jazz, contemporary and experimental music.
The result is a new strain of Ethio-jazz that takes off in directions only imagined by Mulatu Astatke or Hailu Mergia. They're a dance band and a jam band at the same time, and for me one of the most exciting musical acts anywhere in the world right now. They totally speak Global A Go-Go's language.
Members of Qwanqwa will visit WRIR's studio this week (Sunday November 13, 1:00-3:00 PM on WRIR, for two weeks afterwards on the wrir.org
archive player, check your local listings for airing on other radio stations, and any old time at my podcast site
) for an interview, before they head over to Capital Ale House's Richmond Music Hall for their 6:00 PM (doors open) performance alongside Richmond's own Ethio-jazz masters, the Afro-Zen Allstars.
You'll hear the music of both of those bands on the show this week, along with tributes to Brazilian singer Gal Costa, who passed away this week, and to Congolese superstar Tabu Ley Rochereau, born on this broadcast date in 1940.