Emerging Ethiopian Rock Star, Kenna Zmedkun

Kenna Zemedkun is a 29 year old Ethiopian born musician, who grew up in Virginia Beach, Virginia skateboarding and worshiping U2. Until the age of three he grew up with his grandfather in Ethiopia and would find his way to Cincinnati, Ohio where his parents had immigrated. Kenna’s father served as Minster of Agricultural for southern Ethiopia in Emperor Haile Selassie’s government. When the Emperor’s government fell to a military junta, fearing persecution his parents immigrated to England before finally settling in the US.

According to his myspace page, understanding Kenna is to really believe him when he says his name means, “to get what you want”. And that is what he has exactly done; he has gone out and produced an authentic sound. His music influenced by almost ever thing from synth pop to punk rock to hip hop to electronica. Some may claim it has not served him well in the age of commercial radio, but he has many more fans who would dispute that claim. When Kenna released his latest album Make Sure They See My Face (Face), radio VJ Mark Ronson played the first single Out of Control on his show “Authentic Shit”, the underground internet scene went a buzz, it was even used as a soundtrack to a recent Sony PSP commercial. (Starpulse.com)

Kenna’s love of music would begin in high school, when a friend would lend him U2’s Joshua Tree. He then began to teach himself how to play the piano, and studied musicians like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, and also listened to bands like Cure and Duran Duran. Kenna would not embark on his musical career, until he became disillusioned with his collage career, and decided the standard route of formal education was not for him. That is when he teamed up with his high school friend, Chad Hugo one half of the Neuptunes, to make demo tapes one of which found its way to Atlantic records and then on to Fred Durst (myplay.com) Durst liked it so much, he signed Kenna to his Flawless label without even a face to face meeting.

With the help of Hugo, they produced Kenna’s first album New Sacred Cow. Flawless unable to promote the album, Kenna’s coming out party was delayed. But in June 2003 the album would hit the music after backing from Columbia Records. He next album would also face a similar fate, labels unable to put his sound in one category did not know how bring it to a wider audience. Canadian author and journalist Malcolm Gladwell would echo this sentiment in hit book Blink, where he dedicates an entire chapter to Kenna. Gladwell tries to answer the question, why don’t labels and radio programmers get him? The chapter headed “Kenna’s dilemma” tries to provide an insight by saying programmers and labels unnerved by Kenna’s unique sound, can’t be easily pigeon holed.

This is how Kenna describes his music, “I call my music free-base, because there is no basis for it, I had to make by own genre, my own world it’s a mixture”. (Matt Diehl, BNET) Essentially his music is not an imitation; it transcends color and culture, providing orgasmic sound to the ear. (vido)

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