Meklit Hadero’s New Album: We Are All Alive

“We are all alive” is another quantum leap made by Meklit Hadero, after the release of her first full-length LP “On a Day Like This”. During her UK tour, in between rehearsals for her gig in the Southbank on the 7th of May, I had the opportunity to speak briefly with the songwriter. I have to confess that initially I felt slightly intimidated by her curriculum. After all, Meklit not only has a degree in Political Science by Yale University, but she is also a TED Senior fellow. I felt the pressure to come out with some really sharp questions. But on the phone, she put me at ease with her warmth and spontaneity within a few seconds, answering to my questions in a modest, profound and inspiring way.

Meklit told me that in the past four years, since the release of the critically acclaimed “On a Day Like This”, she had a period in which she locked herself from the world just to compose music. A number of those songs did not even make it to the album. “The second album is always more difficult. With the first album you have your whole life to work on. With the second, there is a lots of more pressure and self-doubt” – she tells.

The result of such an introspective period is a collection of well-written songs that represents the artist’s commitment to her work. The album is a contemporary blend of Jazz, Folk, Blues and Soul. It comes with songs that talk about transience and the lasting feelings of hope. “In Sleep” is a song that brings the humble sophistication of the many art quarters of San Francisco. While the groovy remix of Dub Colossus, “Kemeken – I like your Afro”, invites anyone to get up and dance.

My favourite of all is the mellow “Rest Now”, which I have been enjoying listening to while commuting after a hard day’s work. It takes me to a dreamy state as I watch a landscape of brightly yellow rapeseed fields bathed by the golden sunset light – a scene I have been admiring every evening from the train.

Meklit was born in Ethiopia. In 1974, after the violent aftermath of Ethiopia’s revolution, she fled with her parents to the US. They first landed in Iowa and then moved to Brooklyn, where she started forming her soundscapes. After getting her degree at Yale, Meklit moved to San Francisco. It was there that she found her true home: “San Francisco is a place that received me with open arms. There I became part of a whole community of like-minded artists”. But the songwriter has never forgotten what made her into what she is today. She uses her music to represent her Ethiopian roots and her work campaigning for gender equality.

Adding to her varied portfolio, Meklit is also the co-founder of The Nile Project, a recent initiative bringing together musicians from eleven countries of the Nile Basin, working with University Students in a programme to promote the environmental sustainability and cultural diversity of the region. When I asked her about the connection between her political activism and her music, she corrected me by saying: “I see myself as a cultural activist.” Those words marked the end of the interview with a strong insight. In a time when funding for arts are becoming increasingly scarce, and where artistic accomplishment is overcast by celebrity culture, Cultural Activism is exactly what we need to hang on to.

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