'The Expats' Ethiopian-American soulstress Wayna delivers her Ethiopian guide to DC.
It's been a minute since we've rolled out a fresh City Guide — you know, where we enlist our favorite artists to share the best spots in their hometowns. For this series installment we tapped Ethiopian/DC-based songstress Wayna, fresh off the release of The Expats LP. Her latest full length is a celebration of the contradictions that result from being raised with multiple cultures, an exploration of her diasporic upbringing through a concoction of Ethiopian musical heritage and the influence of idols like Ms. Lauryn Hill and Bob Marley. Below, the newly crowned first lady of freak soul discusses the best spots for Ethiopian food, live music, and more in her homebase of Washington, D.C. Listen to The Expats and read on for Wayna's Habesha guide to D.C.
Best Music Venue:
Wayna: My favorite overall music venue in the city is still the 9:30 Club, because the sound is great, it's not too massive, and you can always get a great
Best night/event for Ethiopian culture:
Wayna: By far, the best spot for an Ethiopian cultural show is Dukem Restaurant on Wednesday night. There is a traditional Ethiopian band there that sings and plays massinko (violin) and kerar (guitar). The lead singer, Setegn Setenaw did a feature on my new album and literally blew the roof off the studio in two takes. Cats were shaking his hand after like "I don't know what you just did, but thank you!" Definitely, a must see.
Best spot for Ethiopian food:
Wayna: I personally love Dama Restaurant in Pentagon City for their "special shiro" and the Kitfo, which is the best in town. They also have the most amazing bakery next door that sells vegan pastries during fasting season that will blow your mind. They did my wedding cake years ago, and I've been a faithful customer ever since.
Best record shop:
Wayna: Crooked Beats has the best organized vinyl collection in DC I've found, and their world music section is growing. But if you don't mind digging, I've found more than a few gold mines for under $5 at a used bookstore in the basement of the Wheaton Public Library on Georgia Ave, called "Friends of the Library." Props to DJ Roddy Rod for giving me that tip years ago.
Best spot to have a picnic:
Wayna: The drum circle on Sunday afternoons at Malcolm X Park is still one of the best free shows in town and the most energetic. When I had a regular 9 to 5 years ago at the Clinton White House, it was my secret for starting the work week with a bang and reminding myself not to get too caught up in the beltway mindset.
Best coffee in town:
Wayna: Sidamo Coffee on H St NE is incredible and so is Sankofa Cafe on Georgia Ave, where you could also very likely bump into owner and legendary filmmaker Haile Gerima (Sankofa, Teza) and/or find an obscure book or a movie by or about Africans in the adjacent book store. Their 4-espresso-shot "dirty chai" is pretty pretty Larry David good!
Best Ethiopian drink in town:
Wayna: Coffee probably is the best Ethiopian drink, but you can get a nice bottle of 'Tej' Ethiopian honey wine at Addis Ababa Restaurant on Fenton St. in Silver Spring, MD.
Catch up on City Guides from Alec Lomami [Kinshasa], Christian Tiger School [Cape Town], Bombino [U.S. Touring], Blitz the Ambassador [NYC], Just A Band [Nairobi], and Vanessa Mdee [Dar es Salaam]. Wayna's 'The Expats' is out now via Y2 Music.