Kenna is a Grammy-nominated Ethiopian born singer/songwriter who has a lot to say about music. Initially, his EP was completely erased due to a technical glitch, but Kenna’s back and he released the first in a series of three EPs entitled “Land 2 Air Chronicles” on Tuesday, April 26th.
Kenna doesn’t just care about music. He cares about the world, especially his homeland of Africa. Kenna organized his celebrity friends to climb Mount Kilimanjaro on a project called “Summit on the Summit,” where they helped provide fresh water for Africans.
He’s a super musician whose music is amazing! Check out the exclusive interview below and check out Kenna’s music here.
GlobalGrind: How would you describe your musical style?
Kenna: I don’t even know how to. To be honest, I don’t even do it. It’s one of those things where the minute I put a label on it, it makes it even harder to describe. Call it pop alternative music. I think it is pop electronica, pop alternative. It’s music. It doesn’t need a title, it doesn’t need a name as long as you know that I made it and it moves you, then everything else is secondary.
You’re releasing three EPs this year, how did you come up with the concept to release three and make sure that your music stays in the airwaves and on people’s minds?
The three EPs are kind of an offering to my fans and to my friends and to people who care about my music and then to new people who learn about my music. It’s an offering to say that I’m pursuing music as my dream, as my aspiration now again. I need your support and I need you to be there with me. The way I’m going to do that is by giving you this music in increments as soon as I finish them and lead up to what would be the album that comes right after it.
You climbed Mount Kilimanjaro basically to bring clean water awareness to the world. It was your project called “Summit on the Summit.” How was that for you?
I think I’m in a different position then the people who went on the climb in the first place with me. I’ve climbed Kili once before. There were a lot of spiritual awakenings in that and it caused me to be kind of confused about what I was doing. It made my album schizophrenic.
I went back; I had to make it to the top because I didn’t make it to the top the first time. That was my personal vendetta against the mountain, but it was also the reality that I’m never going to get to where I want to go without my friends.
I’m running for the President of the United States of Kenna in pursuit of that. That only leads to the fact that inevitably I’ll be able to do more. And help other people be able to drink because I have the success to be able to push the needle on those things.
How has being Ethiopian or being directly tied to Africa affected your music?
It makes me too black for BET. When you’re a foreign kid, you’re prone to get joked. I had an accent and I didn’t speak English as well as everybody else. It’s the fact that I learn to adapt and I’m a chameleon in that way. I assimilate cultures and I assimilate concepts and ideas behind the way people live and are.
Who are your musical inspirations. Who inspires you to do music?
I love Sam Cook. You might hear it in a run or two. I’m a forever a die hard Stevie Wonder fan. I’m a Gap Band fan. I’m one of those kids who lived and breathed Earth, Wind and Fire. I think there was a shift in my life where I had to adapt, when my parents moved to the dark side of Cincinnati, Ohio to the suburbs of Virginia when all of a sudden I was listening to U2, R.E.M, The Talking Heads and Depeche Mode. At the end of the day, Michael Jackson was everything to me as kid.
Who has been your favorite artist to work and collaborate with?
I love working with Lupe (Fiasco). He’s fearless and it’s about saying something and I just respect that. When it comes down to making music, obviously Chad from the Neptunes. He’s so reclusive that nobody really understands how talented he is. He’s brilliant.
If you could work with anybody and have your dream collaboration, who would it be?
Right now, who I’m really into is Frank Ocean from Odd Future. I got to hear him before people had his record. He has this lyrical quality and a tonality about the way he sings. Chad and I were in the studio with Tyler The Creator. He is a character and another one that’s fearless. It’s his world.
What is something fun or quirky about you that people don’t know?
I go snowboarding every year. I’m a snowboard freak. The part that’s quirky is that I’m not good at all. I go out with Santigold, we’ve gone for the past two years. Santi’s dude is an Olympic snowboarder, Trevor Andrew. She went down the mountain in an all black and white dice onesie with all dice and she had gold goggles. She’s so fly. I was calling her Santi Dice Clay the whole time.
If you were on a deserted island, and you could only bring 3 CDs with you, which ones would you bring?
Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall”, U2’s “Joshua Tree” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Acts as Bold as Love.” Those are the three because “Off The Wall” would keep my spirits up, “Joshua Tree” would keep me looking for a way out and “Acts as Bold as Love” would help me get through my angst.
When do your three EPs come out?
All the three EPs are based on (Ralph Waldo) Emerson’s Self Reliance. So the first one is called, “Land 2 Air Chronicles: Chaos in the Darkness” which comes out April 26, the second one is “Imitation is Suicide” which comes out end of June and third is “Self Reliance” which comes out end of August. “Songs for Flight” is the album that comes out after all that.