She bridges cultures, embraces emotion and transforms sound — Ethiopian American songwriter and composer Meklit Hadero is coming to perform at Memorial Hall on Monday, March 16 at 7:30 p.m.
Ethio-jazz music is a unique fusion of traditional Ethiopian music and modern jazz which can be mixed with influences of Afro-funk, soul and pop.
“There is nothing like it in the world,” band member Sam Bevan said.
While Hadero has always been musically inclined, she said when she found a community that shared the same values as her in San Francisco over fifteen years ago, she knew she wanted to make music.
“I like to say that once I found that community it was like every step I took towards music, music took ten steps towards me,” Hadero said.
Hadero has released several albums over the last couple of years including “When The People Move The Music Moves Too” and “On A Day Like This…”
“I truly got a sense that her first album was really just scratching the surface of where she was gonna be going,” said Bob Duskis, president and co-founder of Six Degrees Records. “She's really blossomed and has this fascinating niche of taking Ethiopian jazz and mixing it with all kinds of other things: hip-hop and singer-songwriter and more traditional kinds of jazz.”
Hadero said she wanted to compose the music she wished she had been able to listen to when she was growing up.
“I wanted to create music that would let me be my full self — an Ethiopian person and an American person,” Hadero said. “For me, it’s all one and the same thing, it’s just an extension of who I am.”
Ethiopian music is different from Western harmony because it utilizes pentatonic scales, a musical system centered around a series of five repeating tones.
“There’s an infinity inside of five notes,” Hadero said.
When composing music, Hadero said she finds her inspiration through listening to the world and its musicality to discover openness. She said she learned to be her own muse.
“I like to create experiences that will resonate at the level of the hips and the heart and the intellect,” Hadero said. “I feel like my job on stage is to be so free, so free in myself that I can invite other people into a sense of being free.”
While Hadero finds inspiration in the beauty and minimalism of the world, she also finds ideas for her songs within the things she is passionate about. Hadero is a part of many cultural projects including “There Is No Sound Barrier” and “Brighter Sound,” and is co-founder of “The Nile Project.”
The Nile Project aims to bring musicians from the 11 Nile countries together to foster cross-cultural conversations and raise environmental awareness. Working on the project allowed Hadero to experience music in a new way, she said.
“Music was always evolving and what I could see was that I had a place on a continuum,” Hadero said. “It was an honor to be on that continuum, and it was a joy.”
Hadero encourages students to come out to her show because it will be an uplifting and unique experience.
“Meklit’s a really powerful speaker, her message is really positive and uplifting — she’s super inspiring in that way,” Bevan said. “Hopefully it exposes people to something that they haven’t stumbled across before.”
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