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Sisterhood of the Traveling Performer

music_MeklitHaderoEthiopia-born singer Meklit Hadero puts multicultural spin on jazz

Even through the haze of jetlag and cross-continental cellular static, Meklit Hadero’s presence is remarkable. Whether mesmerizing audiences in America or in her home country of Ethiopia, the singer/songwriter traces her confidence and charisma to her migrant life.

“I think moving around did two things: one was that it taught me how to make friends with a big variety of people and connect with people who didn’t have much in common with me, and it also taught me how to be comfortable in a huge variety of situations,” explains Hadero. “It gave me a real flexibility of living that I use all the time, and I also think it was great preparation for life on the road as a touring musician in general.”

Throughout her life, Hadero has called a dozen cities and three continents her home, and the mellow fluidity and multi-generational appeal of her songs seem to embody the best of all the cultures she’s been a part of. “It sits at the crossroads of North American songwriters, the jazz tradition and Ethiopian music,” she says of her musical style. “In Ethiopian music there’s a sort of super vibrato where people hover around a note instead of grabbing a note and holding onto it—it’s just kind of how my voice was and is, I can feel that my voice comes from that place.”

As a child, it was clear that Hadero had a passion for music—“My mother will tell stories of me being three years old and asking people in the elevator if they wanted to hear me sing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,’” she admits—but her career as a musician didn’t blossom until she moved to the Bay Area.

In San Francisco, Hadero found an audience at the Mission Arts and Performance Project, a community-based grassroots art event, where artists from around the world collaborate.

“That whole community showed me how to be a singer and a musician that was actively engaged in the community, but also inspired by the other artists around—not just musicians, but visual artists as well,” she says. “I’m not so much about being a particular kind of musician as I am about experimenting with sound and bringing genre-bending music to a new place.” That experimentation is evident on both her EP, Eight Songs, and the full-length record, On a Day Like This.

At the center of it all is her warm and expressive voice, which she says is the result of her fascination with the intricacies of vocal expression. “The voice is an instrument that has such a subtlety to it—it responds to your moods, it’s different all the time … it’s made of you,” she explains. “Just as you grow and shift, so does your voice, and you have to learn how to relate with it. I don’t think that the voice can be mastered—I don’t like thinking of it as a kind of mastery—it’s more about learning how to steward its moods and personalities, and that really takes a long time so I take voice lessons as often as I can.”

As a Senior Fellow for TED—a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas—and founder of the Arba Minch collective—a cultural exchange program that connects Ethiopia and the world through arts—Hadero is a strong believer in the ability of music and arts to unify: “There’s a moment in shows that doesn’t always happen,” she says, “where the audience that is made of 100 different bubbles becomes one big bubble—that’s something that [as people] we look for, but a lot of us don’t know how much we seek it.”


Meklit Hadero plays at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 30, at Don Quixote’s, 6275 Hwy 9, Felton. Tickets are $13/adv, $15/door. 603-2294.

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Heart Me Up

In defense of Valentine’s Day

 

“be(ing) of love (a little) more careful”—e.e. cummings

Wednesday (Feb. 10) is Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins. Friday (Feb. 12) is Lincoln’s 207th birthday. Sunday is Valentine’s Day. On Ash Wednesday, with foreheads marked with a cross of ashes, we hear the words, “From dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.” Reminding us that our bodies, made of matter, will remain here on Earth when we are called back. It is our Soul that will take us home again. Lent offers us 40 days and nights of purification in preparation for the Resurrection (Easter) festival (an initiation) and for the Three Spring Festivals (at the time of the full moon)—Aries, Taurus, Gemini. The New Group of World Servers have been preparing since Winter Solstice. The number 40 is significant. The Christ (Pisces World Teacher) was in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights prior to His three-year ministry. The purpose of this desert exile was to prepare his Archangel (light) body to withstand the pressures of the Earth plane (form and matter). We, too, in our intentional purifications and prayers during the 40 days of Lent, prepare ourselves (physical body, emotions, lower mind) to receive and be able to withstand the irradiation of will, love/wisdom and light streaming into the Earth at spring equinox, Easter, and the Three Spiritual Festivals. What is Lent? The Anglo-Saxon word, lencten, comes from an ancient spring festival, agricultural rites marking the transition between winter and summer. The seasons reflect changes in nature (physical world) and humanity responds with social festivals of gratitude and of renewal. There is a purification process, prayerfulness in nature and in humanity in preparation for a great flow of spiritual energies during springtime. Valentine’s Day: Aquarius Sun, Taurus moon. Let us offer gifts of comfort, ease, harmony, beauty and satisfaction. Things chocolate and golden. Venus and Taurus things.

 

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