With the rightful acclaim granted in recent years to the golden age of Ethiopian music from the ’60s and early ’70s, it’s also important to embrace both present and future. The woman known simply as Meklit knows this. A keen disciple of the work of legendary composer/bandleader MulatuAstatke, she’s radically updated his Ethio-jazz blueprint for the 21st century, at the same time making it deeply resonant of her own experience.


Born in Ethiopia and raised at various points across the United States, her music reflects exactly who she is and where she’s been, with her homeland being refracted through the filter of American jazz and soul. In many ways, MeklitHadero’s cross-genre sound is the consummate product of this vibrant landscape.


However, born in Ethiopia, and raised in New York, Meklit’s music has sweeping trans-continental scope that overreaches the boundaries of a single, albeit dynamic, North Californian community. When Hadero released her debut album On a Day Like This, she received widespread critical acclaim, with National Geographic World Music listing it as one of their favourite albums of 2010.


Meklit’s sound moulds American Jazz and Folk and maps it onto the contours of Ethiopian and North-East African traditional music, taking its lead as much from Nina Simone and Joni Mitchell as it does from Mahmoud Ahmed. Whilst Meklit’s sound sets her apart, her outlook is incredibly inclusive.


Throughout her career, she has focused on nurturing other artists, as much as she has on self-development. In this vein, her most ambitious work can be found with the Nile Project, an NGO-come-artistic collective, which aims to address a range of social and environmental issues affecting the Nile Basin. Hybrid music, born from collaboration between virtuosos from across the region, forms the foundation of the project. This both celebrates the unique mix of identities in North-East Africa and offers a means of driving dialogue and advocacy in its own right. Meklit proved pivotal in the setting up of the Nile Project, acting as its co-founder, and vocalist for over five years.


That isn’t to say however that the Nile Project hasn’t had a formative influence on her solo work too. In an interview with the San Francisco Mercury News, Meklit recalls the “super-charged engine” of percussion she experienced whilst playing with the group. She promptly transplanted this into her pulsating 2017 release “When the people move, the music moves too”. Since the launch of this album, her fourth full-length release, Meklit has toured extensively, performing in Europe, America and Africa. The album was featured as one of the 100 Best Albums of 2017 in the Sunday Times and as one of the best soul albums of 2017 by Bandcamp.

WOMAD is where every year, you’ll discover a world without borders, a global fiesta of music, food, dance & art, and a place where everyone is welcome. Since 1982, WOMAD has held 250 festivals in over 27 countries.



Words by Matthew Hacke