Tadias Interview: Grammy-Nominated Ethiopian American Musician Kenna

Kenna is a Grammy® and Emmy Award®-nominated Ethiopian American artist. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tseday Alehegn

Published: Monday, October 5th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) The last time that we featured Kenna (Née Kenna Zemedkun) in January of 2010 the Grammy and Emmy-nominated Ethiopian American singer was leading a team of celebrity friends to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak and one of the world’s largest stratovolcanoes, in an effort to raise more awareness about the global clean water crisis — a personal initiative that Kenna says was inspired by his father’s story as a child survivor of a water-born disease. Kenna also served on the Arts & Policy Roundtable for Americans for the Arts as well as the UN Entrepreneurs Council and the brain trust for Fortune 500 Businesses on the economics of altruism.

Five years later Kenna, who was born in Ethiopia and grew up in the U.S., is combining social activism with the production of his upcoming third album Songs For Flight, which is expected to be released in 2016 featuring his latest single Sleep When We Die.

“I am in this for change in music,” Kenna tells Tadias. “Its time has come.”

“It’s difficult to convince a very greedy industry to be philanthropic with music,” Kenna says recently announcing the first One-For-One Artist campaign and promising to donate 50% of his profits to deserving causes and social issues around the world that he and his fans care about.

As a One-For-One Artist Kenna seeks “a social entrepreneurial slant to make a sustainable model that includes the fans and how they can contribute to the well-being of the artist and their world at the same time at a considerably significant level.”

Kenna lists three social causes that are close to his heart: Human Rights (Water), Equality (Women’s Rights) and Arts & Education. “My inheritance is my driver for the causes I have chosen,” he says. “Water (human right) for my father and his struggle as a child and the continued struggle of so many to have access to clean safe drinking water. Women’s rights because of my mother and sister. And the Arts because it has been the vehicle for me to be able to focus on the causes my family and I care about.”

Kenna is taking his campaign on the road with a sponsored worldwide tour that includes stops in Los Angeles, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Mumbai, Chennai, Moscow, Tel Aviv, Paris, London, New York, Haiti and Mexico City.

Asked about artists from East Africa that have inspired him Kenna says, “Wayna is always inspiring. The Weeknd is great and has Ethiopia on his heart. Also Avi Wassa and Cabra in Israel are representing us as well. Very cool to be on the journey and learn so much from others.”

“I think it’s just my responsibility to lead by example,” Kenna tells Tadias. “Hopefully it’ll become an option for the many artists I know believe similarly to me. I have had a cool group of friends and allies who have been encouraging, but this is a very lonely path,” Kenna shares. “I can only hope that the people of my culture can be a part of the journey with me and support the mission that will help Ethiopia the most because it is my heart.”

Kenna | One For One Artist : Go to www.kenna.com to fund the music #SongsForFlight from Translator Labs on Vimeo.

Tseday Alehegn is Co-Founder & Editor of Tadias.

Learn more about the campaign at kenna.com

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