Hot 20 2010: Meklit Hadero, Musician


Meklit Hadero,

Meklit Hadero was born to sing. “I always wanted to be a singer,” says the Ethiopian-born, U.S.-raised cultural activist who studied political science at Yale and ended up serving as the director at Red Poppy Art House for two years. “You hear singers say all the time, ‘When I was barely talking, I was singing, and I always felt like something was missing in my life.’ That was me. When I got to San Francisco, I realized it put up or shut up.” The result is Hadero’s new album, On a Day Like This ... .

Hadero made the right choice: Her voice undulates and darts amid the beautifully spare jazz-folk arrangements with the suppleness and ease of a young Nina Simone or Joni Mitchell (many compare her to a fusion of the two singers). Hadero glides between measures—and genres. It’s something she strives for in the studio. For her second album, she worked with local drummer Aaron Kierbel and Chicago bassist Devin Hoff. “We allowed multiple voices to speak freely,” she says. “I hope listeners find joy because that’s what music is about.”

For Hadero, art works best when combined with activism: Last year, she attended the prestigious TED Global Conference at Oxford University as a fellow. These days, she’s on the road almost more than she’s at home in Potrero Hill. “I’m touring so much,” says Hadero, who grew up in a dozen stateside cities, “I’m getting my travel itch scratched.”

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