“I’ve always felt at home with movement,” murmurs Meklit Hadero in the same gentle voice with which she traces her songs’ supple melodies. “All of us are made of many places.” And she should know: Born in Ethiopia, raised in the U.S. and nurtured by San Francisco’s richly diverse arts scene, this acclaimed singer embodies worlds. Joining her soul-filled phrasing to a songwriter’s craft, her music’s influences range wide – from the jazz and soul favorites she grew up on; to the hip-hop and art-rock she loves; to folk traditions from the Americas and her forebears’ East African home. But this singular artist’s sound, drawn of multitudes, is hers alone.
Emerging from her adopted hometown of San Francisco, Meklit erupted to national notice with the 2010 release of On a Day Like This… on Porto Franco Records. Hailed by Filter magazine for “[combining] New York jazz with West Coast folk and African flourishes, all bound together by Hadero’s beguiling voice,” her full-length debut — which also garnered feature stories on its maker from NPR, PBS and National Geographic — brought Meklit’s music to a whole new audience. It also announced the arrival, as the San Francisco Chronicle has put it, of “an artistic giant in the early stages.”
The journey that brought Meklit to this stage included many stops. Born in Ethiopia in the early 1980s, she grew up in Iowa, New York, and Florida. After studying political science at Yale, she moved to San Francisco and became immersed in the city’s thriving arts scene. “She sings of fragility, hope and self-empowerment, and exudes all three,” wrote a Chronicle reporter after witnessing an early performance in the city’s Mission District. “What’s irresistible, above all, is her cradling, sensuous, gentle sound. She is stunning.” She hasn’t looked back.
Named a TED Global Fellow in 2009, Meklit has served as an artist-in-residence at New York University, the De Young Museum, and the Red Poppy Art House. Meklit has also completed musical commissions for the San Francisco Foundation and for theatrical productions staged by Brava! For Women in the Arts. She is the founder of the Arba Minch Collective, a group of Ethiopian artists in diaspora devoted to nurturing ties to their homeland through collaborating with both traditional and contemporary artists there.
Now touring in support of her debut album while nurturing plans for her next, along with numerous side-projects, Meklit is gracing renowned festivals and concert-halls worldwide. Most at home not in one place but many, she’s an artist leaping from stage to stage before our eyes.
-Joshua Jelly Schapiro