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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Gospel artist Etsegenet Mekonnen from Ethiopia talks about her music and her heritage

Etsegenet Mekonnen is a musician, model, singer, songwriter, guitarist and arranger born in the city of Addis Ababa in the Federal Republic of Ethiopia. The highlights of her career include the release of her first album called YIMETAL, being a choir singer for the Oscar nominated song 'Happy' by Pharrell Williams, being a singer for the award-winning documentary "Get Together Girls" with Italian filmmaker Vanessa Crocini


Gospel artist Etsegenet Mekonnen (Photo: Mekonnen)
You have a brand new album YIMETAL out. How did you go about becoming a singer?
I started singing at an early age, when I was still at the elementary school. My friends and my teachers used to encourage me to sing. When I went to high school, I was focused on school and I didn't spend much time doing music. When I joined college, I made the decision to study music and nothing else. That's when everything began. I found out my passion for music. I studied music at the Mekane Yesus Jazz Music School for three years where I graduated in Guitar performance. Since then I grew as an artist: learning how to play different musical instruments, writing songs. Singing is now an integral part of my life!

What has motivated you to choose Christian music as your genre?
I can only say Jesus is my motivation, GOD's amazing love, grace and mercy! I used to be a secular sing and performed at different places. After being a born again Christian, I became a new creation in Jesus-Christ. I couldn't continue with my old ways. Everything has to become new, including my music. 


Etsegenet Mekonnen performing at Church (Photo: Mekonnen)

What is your source of inspiration when you write your songs?
My source has been my journey with Christ Jesus as I try to follow Him every day. My songs could be personal, prayer songs, based on the Bible and words of encouragement for others, reminding them of GOD's promises.


In which language do you sing?
Even though I sing in English, I first sing in an Ethiopian language called Amharic. I mostly sing in Amharic in my album YIMETAL. Amharic is my first language so I express my feelings better that way. I also believe the Amharic language is rich, musical and beautiful.


Tell us more about Ethiopia. What is the most important thing we should know about your country?
The rich culture, the music, the historical places, the diversity of people, the hospitality and the fact that Ethiopia is a Christian state make all of it a unique country. Ethiopia has 84 languages and we all live in harmony. The African Union is located in  Addis Ababa. The city hosts the headquarters of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and many other continental and international organizations. This is why we refer Addis Ababa as the 'political capital of Africa' in Ethiopia.


Besides being a singer and a songwriter, you also have a modeling career
Before joining the music school back home, I took modeling classes for 6 months. I had the opportunity to work with well-known designers. When I came to the U.S. for college, I was asked to do a commercial for my school.  The latter was successful. Then, I was blessed to be chosen by the fashion photographer Bruce Weber to do a commercial for Abercrombie & Fitch as a musician model.

Etsegenet Mekonnen is working on her second album (Photo: Mekonnen)

How do you manage to keep your Christian faith strong along with the demands of your career?
Honestly, it's not easy! But I have the Holy Spirit guiding me along the way. So I listen to it carefully. Sometimes, I don't hesitate to decline some offers. Other times, I am not always sure. So I take my time to think and to pray. 

When Etsegenet Mekonnen is not singing, writing music or modeling, what does she do?
I love reading the Holy Bible and different books. I enjoy shopping, watching movies, go hiking and working out.

What are your plans in the nearest future?
My plans are to record my second album and to perform at different places. My fans can check the latest updates on my official website 'Etsegenet Mekonnen'.