Edien Nega was born in 2004 in Seattle, Washington. Her parents immigrated from Semien Gondar Zone of the Amhara Region of Ethiopia in 1983, and taught Edien to speak Amharic while raising her in South Seattle. At John Muir Elementary School, Edien began studying the violin with Mr. Holmes at age 11, and continued under the tutelage of Beth Fortune at Washington Middle School.
One day, in the middle school cafeteria, Edien was fiddling away to “Boil ‘Em Cabbage Down,” when she was overheard by tRp co-founder Joe Seamons. She was excited to be invited into the Jr. Fiddlers after school program, where she began working with Joe alongside Ben Hunter. Despite the social pressure from her African and Black American friends to “not be corny,” or “do that white people shit,” Edien persisted in her study of the violin. At first it was an excuse to get out of class. But, playing with tRp unlocked another personality in her, helping her discover a new dimension; joining tRp showed her the ways in which she was different from most people of her generation, and that her real self was very unique.
Meanwhile, in her family’s church community, Edien regularly played a large kebero (a form of drum) while leading the choir. She learned new songs for each celebration at St. Gabriel Ethiopian Orthodox church. Transitioning to eighth grade, Edien removed herself from drama among her peers by going to Ms. Fortune’s room and finding peace in her violin. This time—along with Ms. Fortune’s personal influence—was essential for giving Edien space and freedom to explore her love of herself and the instrument. That passion continues to push Edien to play every day. In 2018, Edien traveled with tRp for the first time to the Pt. Townsend Acoustic Blues Festival.
Despite the unbalanced amount of old white people present, Edien really loved the community she found, and she made no bones about her harmless infatuation with one of her instructors, Marcus Cartwright. She also took great joy in Ben Payton’s blues history class. Edien enrolled at Franklin High School in 2019, where there was not an effective continuation of Ms. Fortune’s violin curriculum. Attempting to enroll in the Roosevelt HS music program, Edien found that even the great snacks in the vending machine were not enough to outweigh the racist experiences she encountered in that school.
In 2021, weathering the global pandemic, Edien was accepted to tRp’s internship program, where she continues to explore her heritage as a Black American fiddler and multi-faceted tradition bearer.