Meklit said her album was inspired by an encounter with Ethiopian musician Mulatu Astatke.
Ethiopian-American artist Meklit has released her new album “When the People Move, the Music Moves, Too” on Six Degrees Records. A vibrant and inspired mix of Ethio-Jazz roots along with American pop, R&B and folk influences, Meklit’s record crosses both musical and generational borders to create a unified artistic vision, united behind her unique and unmistakable voice.
The album is the result of a fateful encounter Meklit experienced in Addis Ababa with the legendary vibraphonist/composer Mulatu Astatke, who helped spark Ethiopia’s 1960s musical renaissance. She was deeply engaged with his music at the time, but he pushed her to think about how to bring her own experiences into her songs. “He was very pointed with me, saying several times ‘You keep innovating!’” she recalls. “He took me to task and he tasked me. It took me a while to digest that. It’s a big thing to have someone like that say that to you. I sat with it for a couple of years.”
“When the People Move, the Music Moves, Too” earned early acclaim from New York Magazine in their “Approval Matrix” feature, earning a coveted spot on the “Brilliant” end of the spectrum. The record made it’s debut on PopMatters, who said “With her latest masterpiece, Meklit has affirmed her place among her childhood heroes: at the shining crossroads of two cultures, making truly moving music.”
Meklit started performing at San Francisco’s Red Poppy Art House in the mid-2000’s. Born in Ethiopia, she moved with her family to Iowa at the age of two, and spent much of her adolescence in Brooklyn, soaking up the sounds of hip hop on the street. After studying political science at Yale she spent several years in Seattle before moving to San Francisco, looking to immerse herself in the city’s thriving arts scene.
“I’m always thinking about America and Ethiopia, about how the hybridization is going to work in both places,” she observes. The lapidary orchestrations on her new record were created by Meklit herself, with the help of her bassist Sam Bevan. But Meklit is quick to credit producer Dan Wilson’s lithe musical mind with a major role in shaping the ultimate sound of the record, in addition to his contribution of co-writing two songs.
A prolific songwriter, arranger and producer, Wilson seemed to know exactly which player to place where to accentuate Meklit’s sound. He brought in Ethio-Cali’s tenor saxophonist Randall Fisher, who plays a perfectly calibrated Ethio-jazz intro on “You Got Me.” And Ethiopian-born, LA-based keyboardist Kibrome Birhane’s spare piano work levitates “Yesterday is a Tizita.” Meklit describes how Wilson’s songwriting precision, and razor sharp, generous feedback helped to weave a remarkable clarity into the music, enhancing Meklit’s already vivid hues.
Since the release of her acclaimed 2010 debut album On A Day Like This… (Porto Franco Records), Meklit has become an international force. Meklit is the co-founder of both the Nile Project and the Arba Minch Collective, inaugurated the UN Campaign for Gender Equality in Africa with a concert in Addis Ababa, and sits on the board of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
Find out more about Meklit and her album: http://www.meklitmusic.com