RUMINATIONS ON CULTURAL ACTIVISM
This page is a collection of projects I've been involved with throughout my music making career. They are like mini-eras... A pendulum swinging between focused songwriting-arranging-recording-touring periods, and moments thinking about how music and arts allows us to ask questions and engage in the world around us. They are both important. Art for art's sake is real. Man does not live by bread alone. And then I feel pulled to work that demonstrates music must be relevant. It's a kind of restlessness.... An itch. A need. One does not negate the other. I try to hold it all. Then I suddenly want to be just a singer again. Hit reset. Or maybe simply existing as an African woman in the public sphere and not being defined by that quartet of ills - poverty, hopelessness, chaos and despair - loving myself and my communities (there are many), and shining that love to the world... that's also a creative act. We need it so badly. So it's seamless.... this idea of cultural activism. I invite you to read a project description. Listen to a song. Repeat.
THE NILE PROJECT
The Nile Project was founded in August 2011 by Egyptian ethnomusicologist Mina Girgis and Ethiopian-American singer Meklit to address the Nile basin’s cultural and environmental challenges using an innovative approach that combines music, education and an enterprise platform.
The Nile Project curates collaborations among musicians from the 11 Nile countries to expose audiences to the cultures of their river neighbors. These musical experiences foster cross-cultural empathy and inspire environmental curiosity to shift the Nile from a divisive geopolitical argument to a uniting East-African conversation. In partnership with local universities, interactive workshops and free online courses educate students and help them discover their unique roles in creating a more sustainable Nile Basin. www.nileproject.org
Meklit has joined the Board of Directors of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, one of the Bay Area's most experimental yet grassroots large arts institutions. Meklit has worked with YBCA since 2008, when she co-curated the Red Poppy Art House exhibition for BAN5 in the Room for Big Ideas. She also deepened and continued her relationship with YBCA through 2014's Home [Away From] Home Project (see below). Meklit is thrilled to be a part of the stewardship of this incredible cultural organization.
THIS WAS MADE HERE
This Was Made Here is a new body of music currently being composed by singer, musician, and cultural activist Meklit. Born in Ethiopia, raised in Brooklyn and based for a decade in San Francisco, Ethiopian traditional songs, Jazz and the songwriter tradition are marks of Meklit's sonic homelands. Taking these core elements as foundational building blocks, she sonically explores the cultural re-imagination happening as part of the arrival of the Ethiopian Diaspora en masse to North America.
Working with rhythm, melody, the female chorus, approaches to poetry and lyric, as well as structural elements of composition, each song will highlight distinct cultural markers as jumping off points. Deeply inspired by Mulatu Astatke, the Godfather of Ethio-Jazz, the work builds upon the concepts pioneered by Astatke as part of the late 1960s and early 1970s Golden Age of Ethiopian music. At the same time, the music is steeped in 21st century North America, where deeply fluid immigrant generations are the norm. The work invites a closer look into the quandary of identity, recognizing the impossibility of answering the question, "What parts of you are Ethiopian and what parts of you are American?"
Meklit served as a Panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts 2014 cycle, evaluating grant applications in the category of Presenting and Multidisciplinary works.
Meklit was selected to attend the 2014 RPM Artist Lab in Kentucky. RPM is an org originally founded by the members and management teams of REM, the Beasties Boys and Pearl Jam, which supports the power of artists and musicians to affect positive social change.
HOME [AWAY FROM] HOME
Home [Away From] Home is an experimental art installation featuring artists in the Ethiopian and Eritrean communities of the Bay Area, culminating in a weekend-long festival of visual arts, music, dance, poetry, & food, around next year's Eritrean and Ethiopian New Year (Sept 11, 2014).
The project serves as a metaphor for African immigrants in the diaspora trying to build a home in America while maintaining and sharing their cultural identity in the USA. With a respect for the unique histories of the Ethiopian and Eritrean peoples, we intend to highlight the art, music, and culture that brings immigrants from these two communities together while exploring the theme of “Home (Away From) Home”.
Home [away from] Home is the brain child of Ethiopian American singer Meklit Hadero, Eritrean American filmmaker Sephora Woldu, and Ethiopian American musician Ellias Fullmore. The project is supported by YBCA In Community, a new initiative created by Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA).
YBCA , an arts and culture organization recognized locally, nationally, and globally for its dedication to artistic innovation, has a committed long-term vision to place contemporary art at the heart of community life around the world. www.thehomeawayfromhome.org
NYU ARTIST RESIDENCY
Meklit Hadero was part of the Institute of African American Affairs' spring 2011 artist-in-residence program, The African Diaspora And/In the World. During the residency, she created a collaboration between NYU and the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center, curating the series Resonate: African America in Sound and Story.
BRAVA FOR WOMEN IN THE ARTS
OVER THE MOUNTAIN A World Premiere Play Written by Brian Thorstenson :: Music Composed by Meklit Hadero :: Directed by Raelle Myrick-Hodges
Meklit was commissioned by the Brava Theater and Director Raelle Myrick-Hodges to compose music and design sound for the world premier production of Brian Thorstensen’s play, Over the Mountain.
RED POPPY ART HOUSE
Meklit is currently on the Leadership Team of San Francisco's Red Poppy Art House, where she got her start as a singer and cultural activist. She is the former Co-Director of the organization, having served in this role from 2006-2008.
Mission: The Red Poppy Art House is a neighborhood center for the intersection of cultural and inter-generational artistic engagement located in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District. The Poppy is an artist-driven organization that seeks to empower and transform society by addressing current social issues that impact our community and society at large through creative processes.
Operating from a neighborhood storefront in San Francisco’s Mission District, the RPAH demonstrates the unique, powerful and irreplaceable capacity of intimate community spaces through hosting over 150 diverse performances, exhibitions, workshops, and artist residencies annually.
TED SENIOR FELLOWSHIP
Meklit is a 2012 TED Senior Fellow for her work with the Nile Project. She has given two TED talks and several performances at six conferences since she became a TED Global Fellow in 2009. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. With a global network of over 300 Fellows strong, the TED Fellows program is a hub for cross-disciplinary collaboration, connection and innovation.
Meklit was an Artist Consultant for the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) in 2011. She worked with the organization to develop ways to integrate the artist voice more deeply into the APAP annual conference, the largest gathering of performing arts presenters in the world.
DE YOUNG MUSEUM
Meklit is a member of the de Young Museum inaugural Artist Council, participating as a guest curator in the department of Public Programs and Friday Nights at the de Young.
In June of 2009, Meklit Hadero and Todd Brown were artists-in-residence at the De Young Musem.
As Commissioned Artists, Brown and Hadero, worked on-site at the de Young’s Kimball Gallery to produce new works evolving from the inter-relationship of processes: painting, installation, soundscape and musical composition. At the heart of their collaborative work, Brown and Hadero utilized their mediums, and creative processes, to uncover and explore intangible qualities that engender meaningful human exchange.