Meklit Hadero’s voice exudes music. A casual conversation over morning coffee can feel like an impromptu personal performance by the San Francisco jazz musician, because even her speaking voice has rhythm.
Assured with the spoken word, Hadero pauses at all the right times, naturally crafting an underlying melodic or poetic content to her dialogue. The intonation floats up and down like a line from one of her songs, as the buzz of the bean grinder, the clanking ceramic cups, and pings of a cash register replace traditional percussion. Opening and closing her eyes between thoughts, she carefully constructs each sentence.
“There is an art to not saying things too quickly,” she blushes when I call her out on this distinct way of speaking. “You have to be open to letting the words come. If there’s too much conversation in your head, the poetry runs away.”
Hadero is all about feeling out the right tempo. And whether it’s in regard to speech or daily duties, she’s established a beat. But as her musical career has grown in the past couple years due to residencies at both the Red Poppy Art House and the de Young Museum, her to-do list has simultaneously matured into a demanding beast, distracting her creative process and throwing off her internal metronome. When she does get a day off, it’s all about coffee and taking time to breathe.
“I’ll sleep in, enjoy the view from my apartment, and trick myself into not using my computer — I hide it in my car. Well, just kidding … but maybe I should do that.”
It’s on these days that Hadero is able to create music. Soul-filled vocals dance with jazzy, playful bass for a sound that references Nina Simone and suggests a more vibrant Norah Jones. This week she releases her debut album, On A Day Like This … (Porto Franco), a collection of plush, bright songs woven from the world of influences Hadero’s been collecting throughout her 30 years of life.
Hadero was born in Ethiopia, spent her childhood in Brooklyn, and has since lived in a dozen other places, including Germany; Washington, D.C.; Iowa City; Seattle; Miami; and New Haven, Conn., where she earned a degree from Yale. While she’s most comfortable in “nomad mode,” if there’s anywhere that’s home for her in this country, it’s here, Hadero says.
“The artistic community here is not something to take for granted. I’m coming on six years here in San Francisco — that’s the longest I’ve spent anywhere,” she pauses to reflect on this realization. “I will always be a person with multiple homes — because for me, home isn’t a physical place.”
For Hadero, home is made up of the people who inhabit a space and the rich exchanges that happen among them. It’s the diversity. The mountains. The water. The coffee shops and the music. On A Day Like This … is her ode to California.
“All the songs were written in San Francisco — they’re a culmination of my first period here. My Mission community of artists are all on this album, all the people I’ve been working and playing with for years. These are my moments in the Mission.”
MEKLIT HADERO CD RELEASE PARTY
With DJ Jeremiah Kpoh, and art by Great Tortilla Conspiracy
Thurs/13, 8 p.m., $15–$18
Bimbo’s 365 Club
365 Columbus, SF
1 (877) 4FL-YTIX