Usually, political science majors at Yale don’t flourish as seductive singers and songwriters. Then again, Meklit Hadero is not someone who has followed a traditional career path. Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Hadero left her country when she was just an infant, as her parents, both doctors, fled the political turmoil of the 1970s, making their way to Europe and then the United States. Hadero’s current hometown, San Francisco, is her 12th city of residence by her reckoning. She’s lived in Seattle, Brooklyn and Washington, DC, among other places. Even spent some time in Iowa. But San Francisco is where she found her voice, where she decided to make the commitment to being a professional singer. A scary and exhilarating moment.
San Francisco may not be the center of the musical universe the way it once was in the ‘60s, but it still offers a welcome haven to wanderers and creative talents from all over the world. Hadero found her inspiration in the city’s Mission district, home to Mexican and Central American immigrants, and a vibrant hipster arts scene. It’s the same neighborhood that gave rise to Jerry Garcia and Carlos Santana. You’ll hear hints of Billie Holiday, Tracy Chapman and Joni Mitchell in Hadero’s music. Maybe a distant echo of Joan Armatrading. But Hadero is her own unique creation.
Featured in this year’s San Francisco Jazz Festival, Hadero has a special affinity for improvisation and the jazz idiom. Yet her song, “Leaving Soon,” could easily slide into the rotation on your favorite rock or r&b station. And she’s also begun to explore traditional Ethiopian songs, earning her the warm support of many in the Ethiopian Diaspora.
The night we met up with Hadero, she performed in the cramped but comfortably funky Red Poppy Art House, which hosts a variety of local artists. She gathered some friends for a small, private concert and invited our cameras to record the event. This is Hadero on her home turf, warm and relaxed. But don’t expect her to remain exclusively in small venues like this for long. As the SF Jazz Festival organizers describe her, she’s “an artist poised to break through to worldwide stardom.”
Catch Meklit Hadero now on “Quick Hits” and you’ll be telling friends, hey, you discovered her back when, before she was on everyone’s iPod and CD player.
On "Quick Hits," Meklit Hadero's band includes:
Darren Johnston, trumpet
Ruthie Price, drumkit
Daniel Fabricant, upright bass
Charith Premawardhana, viola
To learn more about Meklit Hadero and her music, explore these Web sites…
Meklit Hadero’s official website: www.meklithadero.com
Hadero’s independent record label in San Francisco, Porto Franco: www.portofrancorecords.com
The Red Poppy Art House, where Hadero was once director and still performs: www.redpoppyarthouse.org
The Arba Minch Collective, musical artists of the Ethiopian Diaspora in North America including Hadero: www.arbaminchcollective.com