Kaethe Hostetter: “GUZO”Buy Tickets
Kaethe Hostetter premieres a new multimedia work, “GUZO,” based on the 11 years she spent embedded in the music scene of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In addition to music, Hostetter became immersed in the textiles and fabric patterns of Ethiopian artists, and “GUZO” combines these two media with more recent field recordings and video created during Hostetter’s October 2021 trip to Addis Ababa. “GUZO” emerged from the travel constraints of the pandemic, and these performances will be the culmination of two week-long residencies, in both September and November, in Indexical’s space at the Tannery Arts Center.
Kaethe Hostetter is an American violinist, composer, and bandleader, who’s been deeply invested in exploring, preserving, and expanding Ethiopian traditional sounds for over 15 years. A founding member of critically-acclaimed Debo Band, Kaethe recorded many albums and toured the world, including a life-changing tour of East Africa in 2009. Soon after, she relocated to Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, immersing herself in the country’s deep musical culture. In her eleven years there, she founded a music school, and started a new band, QWANQWA; which brought together some of the most accomplished players in Addis Ababa’s music scene. QWANQWA has recorded 3 albums and made several international tours, although their 2020 U.S. debut tour was postponed until 2022, due to the COVID pandemic. During the COVID lockdown, she relocated to her hometown of Santa Cruz, CA, to quarantine with her family. While there Kaethe released QWANAQA’s third album, and recorded a solo album of Ethiopian-inspired violin compositions, as well as two other albums in collaboration with other artists. As as solo artist she has performed with Fred Frith, Butch Morris, Ava Mendoza, Henry Kaiser, and others
“GUZO” is a portrait of musical life in Ethiopia, through songs composed while living and performing in Addis Ababa over the last 11 years. I first moved to Addis Ababa after musical collaborations in the diaspora community in Boston, and my only mode of communication in the new land was through my violin. I quickly became immersed in two forms of media: amplified violin alongside Ethiopian musicians performing on hybrid electric-traditional instruments, and the highly patterned textiles created by Ethiopian artists. “GUZO” combines these two media with field recordings made in Addis Ababa, live amplified violin performance, and narrative elements.
Ethiopian music is a form of collective expression, with many elements that tend to occur but which leave room for elaboration and improvisation. “GUZO” partly speaks to the soundscape of a life in Addis, musical and non musical. The project simultaneously highlights communal, nonhierarchical practice through pieces that feature players in Ethiopian music history. This includes a song by Asnaqetch Werqu, a legendary singer and player of the krar, a melody by Tigrayan musician Gebre Tsadik, and others.
These musical fragments emerge like vignettes, windows into specific moments, alongside a video consisting of images of textiles, field recordings and daily life in Addis Ababa. Personal history in the work is intertwined with social and political histories, sounds of the country’s four major languages, and textile art forms that are both intricate and practical. I see this weaving of narrative and visual practice as experimental in the sense that it emerges from a reflection and fusion of disparate materials and media. It is an effort to communicate a personal narrative that is still only one facet of a diverse musical community.
“GUZO” emerged from the constraints of the pandemic. In early 2020, when COVID-19 broke out, as international borders were shutting down and with tensions rising in Ethiopia, I returned to my home town of Santa Cruz, California. COVID-19 led to the postponing of the first U.S. tour of my “supergroup” QWANQWA formed in Addis Ababa, supported by a MacArthur Foundation grant. Since then, Ethiopia has broken into a multidimensional full civil war and I have been unable to return. (QWANQWA’s tour has been rescheduled to 2022). In the interim, I developed first the musical material “GUZO” as a solo exploration, and subsequently added the multimedia aspects, and will be bringing this project live to handful of festivals and venues later in the season.