When Meklit Hadero returns to The Ringling this January, it’s less a touring artist stopping by for a few shows than the return of an old friend.
Hadero is a cabaret singer and musician whose sultry blend of jazz, folk and East African sounds has been on our minds and in our ears ever since her Sarasota debut at the 2011 Ringling International Arts Festival. During those shows she invited the audience to sing with her, a gesture which prompted Gayle Williams of the Herald-Tribune to write, “She had kindly let us into the peacefully grounded world of her own making and that was the gift, to share that time and music with her. May we all meet again, dear Meklit. You are a treasure.”
At 7:30 p.m. Jan. 23-25 in the Historic Asolo Theater the time to meet again will have arrived.
If it felt like Hadero made herself at home during The Ringling performances it might be because she is so adept at settling into new locations. Born in Ethiopia, she grew up in Iowa, Brooklyn and Florida before settling on San Francisco as her adopted hometown. Each of her stops has contributed to her eclectic musical style.
Hadero is also an artist influenced by other artists, including James Turrell who directly inspired her song “Walk Up.” The calming, rhythmic melody instructs her listeners to journey through the “hole in the ceiling” to “take your place in the sky.” According to Hadero’s lyrics, the clouds will hold you in place. For listeners it’s her voice, soothing and relaxing to the point of hypnosis. “Walk Up” is a melting pot of styles, eras and influences to the tune of an acoustic guitar.
According to Dwight Currie, curator of performance at The Ringling, “If Joni Mitchell were East African, sang duets with Norah Jones, and met Nina Simone for tea in San Francisco, it just might remind you of Meklit Hadero.”
While The Ringling shares an affinity for Turrell’s work, Hadero was invited for an encore more for her infectious stage presence and voice than for the mutual artistic appreciation of Turrell. As with most artists attempting to describe Hadero’s work does not suffice, it’s best to just listen and see where it takes you. And for most, that will result in a fun evening where people are still singing as they head for the exits.
For Hadero fans who saw one of her 2011 performances, she has released two albums since: “Earthbound” with hip hop trio Coppwire and “Meklit & Quinn” with Quinn Deveaux. Preview a selection of Hadero’s music below.
Tickets to her three shows are selling out quickly – click here to purchase now.