Born in Ethiopia and raised in the U.S., songstress Meklit Hadero 's musical endeavors span latitudes and genres. But there's also a timeless quality to her warmth and soulfulness that's reminiscent of archetypes like Nina Simone and Billie Holiday. A former director of the Mission's Red Poppy Art House, her recent debut album On A Day Like This was heavily influenced by her experiences as an integral part of the Mission scene. In May an exuberant crowd celebrated the release of Meklit's CD at Bimbo's, and soon afterward we got to spend an afternoon with her while roaming the hills of West Marin.
SFBG Have you always been a musician?
MEKLIT HADERO Music has always been essential. I'd always wanted to do it, but didn't know how to give myself the space. Then I made a commitment to develop in public ... nothing compares to the growth that happens through performance. People like to see other people being free.
SFBG I noticed your willingness to share that vulnerability at your CD release party, that you didn't put on airs like "it's showtime!" There was a moment between songs where there was huge applause and you had to take a couple of extra breaths because of all the emotion. It was really beautiful.
MH I had such a great time at that show. There was so much love in that room.
SFBG Any interesting cover songs on the horizon?
MH I can't tell you exactly what my plans are because part of the fun is when covers surprise people. I've been relatively slow to add covers into my sets, but there will be more. Right now I'm learning a traditional Ethiopian folk song called "I Like Your Afro" [laughs]. Actually, the lyrics are just gorgeous.
SFBG And you have a Stern Grove show coming up?
MH Which is such a dream! I'm so excited about that. Stern Grove is one of the best things about being here in the summer ... going early, picking nasturtiums for the salad ...
SFBG Of course ... you're the flower lady! You always have flowers in your hair. Any other favorite flowers?
MH Well one of the favorite categories is "flowers that are good for your hair." Speaking of which, the other day at the Poppy — this resident artist named Fernando Diaz has a cat named Eskimo that he brings everywhere in a sling like a baby. I was holding Eskimo and he climbed up my shoulder, climbed onto my afro, traversed my afro to the other side, and began furiously attacking my flower. It was so funny. Anyway, flat flowers are good or flowers with a short cone. Gardenias are lovely but hard to attach. I don't know how Billie Holiday did it.
MEKLIT HADERO AT THE STERN GROVE FESTIVAL
Aug. 1, 2 p.m., free
19th Ave. and Sloat, SF