Jazz Vocalist & Composer
San Francisco, California
Jazz Vocals & Composition
Year of Award
Grant or Fellowship
Jazz Road Tours Grant
- Publick Playhouse. March 15th, 2020. Cheverly, MD
- Carolina Performing Arts. March 16, 2020. Chapel Hill, NC
- Celebrity Series of Boston Stave Sessions. March 18, 2020. Boston, MA
- Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts / David Rubenstein Atrium. March 19, 2020. New York City, NY
About the Artist
Meklit is an Ethio-American vocalist, singer-songwriter and composer, making music that sways between cultures and continents. Known for her electric stage presence, innovative take on Ethio-Jazz, and her fiery, emotive live shows, Meklit has rocked stages from Addis Ababa (where she is a household name) to San Francisco (her beloved home-base), to New York, London, DC, Montreal, Nairobi, Chicago, LA, Arusha, Rome, Zurich, Rio Di Janeiro, Seattle, Cairo, and more.
Her fame in Ethiopia skyrocketed in 2015 when her TED talk went viral in the country and her music videos began playing daily on multiple Ethiopian television stations. She goes back to Addis Ababa regularly to perform.
Meklit is a TED Senior Fellow and her TED Talk, The Unexpected Beauty of Everyday Sounds, has been watched by more than 1.2 million people. She is a National Geographic Explorer and has been an Artist-in-Residence at Harvard, NYU, Purdue and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Meklit has received musical commissions from Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the MAP Fund and has toured extensively across the US, UK, and East Africa. She has collaborated with Kronos Quartet, NASA Kepler Co-Investigator Dr. Jon Jenkins (and his star sounds), musical legend Pee Wee Ellis and members of the BBC Philharmonic. She is a Co-Founder of the Nile Project, served as musical director for the beloved Bay Area powerhouse UnderCover Presents, and sang alongside Angelique Kidjo and Anoushka Shankar as a featured singer in the UN Women Theme Song.
Meklit’s album – When the People Move, the Music Moves Too – was released June 23rd on Six Degrees Records, receiving rave reviews and quickly reaching #4 on the iTunes World Music Charts, #1 on the NACC World Charts and #12 on the World Charts in Europe. It was also named one of the 100 Best Albums of 2017 by the Sunday Times UK, one of the Best Soul Albums of 2017 by Bandcamp and amongst the 10 Best Bay Area albums of 2017 by KQED. These 11 songs were deeply inspired by Mulatu Astatke (the Godfather of Ethio-Jazz). Back in 2011, he told Meklit, “find your contribution to Ethio-Jazz and keep on innovating!” Produced by multi-GRAMMY winning artist/songwriter Dan Wilson (Adele, John Legend, Dixie Chicks), the album also features world renowned musicians Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the violinist/whistler Andrew Bird.
Meklit has been featured in NPR, Vibe Magazine, CNN International, USA Today, Wall St. Journal, New York Magazine, MTV Iggy, Gizmodo, PBS, PRI’s The World, BBC Africa, BBC World Service, BBC Women’s Hour, BBC Front Row, BBC Loose Ends, The New Yorker, Brain Pickings, Wired UK, OkayAfrica, AfroPop, Google Music, Relix Magazine, Pidgeons + Planes, KEXP, WBEZ, WNYC, KQED, KBLX, Live Wire Radio, CBS Bay Area, CBS San Diego, Chicago Sun Times, Seattle Times, Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, La Presse (Montreal), The Village Voice, Dig Boston, Seattle Weekly, San Francisco Magazine, SF Bay Guardian and many more.
She has played at festivals and venues in the US, the UK and East Africa, including: Monterey Jazz Festival, SFJAZZ Center, Bumbershoot, SXSW, Southbank Centre, Hollywood Bowl, TED Conferences (Rio Di Janeiro, Edinburgh, Oxford, Long Beach, Arusha), Lincoln Center, Grand Performances, The Schomburg, the Apollo, YBCA, Davies Symphony Hall, Skirball Center (NYC + LA), Winter Jazz Fest, Smithsonian Folklife Fest, Kennedy Center, Stern Grove, World Cafe Live, Nuits D’Afrique (Montreal), Moods (Zurich), The Monk (Rome), Chicago World Music Festival, Gondar Castles (World Heritage Site – Ethiopia), Mulatu Astatke’s Africa Jazz Village (Addis Ababa), Aswan Cultural Palace (Egypt), Blankets +Wine (Nairobi), National Theater (Uganda).
Meklit’s work has been supported by grants from National Geographic, California Humanities, the MAP Fund, the Center for Cultural Innovation, Panta Rhea Foundation, The Creative Work Fund, The Christensen Fund, San Francisco Arts Commission, Zellerbach Family Foundation, Intersection for the Arts, Grants for the Arts, the San Francisco Foundation, Oakland Cultural Funding Project, the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, The Belle Foundation for Cultural Development and more.
Meklit holds a BA from Yale University.