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Ethiopia - Two Ethiopian-Americans nominated for 2009 Grammy Nominees
Two Ethiopian-American singers, Kenna Zemedkun and Wayna Wondwossen, have been nominated for the 2009 Grammy awards, according to a press release by The Recording Academy. Kenna Zemedkun's 'Say Goodbye To Love' and Lovin You by Wayna are nominated in the same group, the Best Urban/Alternative Performance group.
Lovin You by Wayna
The nominees in Category 27
Best Urban/Alternative Performance
(For solo, duo, group or collaborative performances, with vocals. Singles or Tracks only.)
* Say Goodbye To Love
Track from: Make Sure They See My Face
* Wanna Be
Track from: This Much Is True:
* Be OK
Chrisette Michele Featuring will.i.am
Track from: I Am
* Many Moons
Track from: Metropolis: The Chase Suite (Special Edition)
* Lovin You (Music)
Wayna Featuring Kokayi
Track from: Higher Ground
[Quiet Power Productions, LLC]
About Kenna Zemedkun
Kenna, born Kenna Zemedkun, is an Ethiopian-born American musician. The eldest son of an immigrant family that relocated to Cincinnati, Ohio (and later raised in Virginia Beach, VA), Kenna began to express an interest in music upon receiving a copy of U2's The Joshua Tree. The way he was discovered and the obstacles he faced to land a record deal are briefly discussed in Malcolm Gladwell's 2005 book Blink.
With the release of his first single, "Hell Bent", Kenna gained moderate popularity and an underground following of fans who eagerly awaited the release of his debut album, New Sacred Cow. After many delays and swapping of record labels, the album was finally released under the Sony imprint Flawless in 2003. A subsequent North American tour was launched in the Summer of 2003 with Depeche Mode front man Dave Gahan.
The album, which was co-produced by Chad Hugo of The Neptunes, contained elements of electronica, synth pop, post rock, and house music. Two singles, "Sunday After You" and "Freetime" followed the release of the album; the music video of the latter, along with "Hell Bent", appeared sporadically on MTV2.
The story of Kenna's big-name supporters, test marketing, and ultimate lack of record sales is covered by a whole chapter in Malcolm Gladwell's book, Blink, titled "Kenna's Dilemma: The Right - and Wrong - Way to Ask People What They Want"
Kenna's second album, entitled Make Sure They See My Face, also co-produced by Hugo, has faced delays, written over the course of three years, finishing in early 2007. The album was originally set to be released on June 5, 2007, then pushed back to June 19, 2007, finally being released on October 16, 2007. Kenna, in an interview with Vibe magazine, cited the reason for delays as being over the video for the album's debut single. The inspiration for the album came from Kenna's attempt to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the title, inspired from phone calls by Pharrell asking Kenna; "are you going to make sure they see your face?". Kenna's climb took him to 18,200 feet before he fell ill from taking a sulfur-based altitude medicine, one he was unaware he was allergic to. On October 23, 2007, the album debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top 20 Heatseekers Chart.
An unrelated song from his second album, "Face the Gun", was released to appease his waiting fans, and initially was not to appear on Make Sure They See My Face, missing from early promos of the album. Ultimately, it was included in the final track listing. Kenna released a track from the album, entitled "Better Wise Up", in time for the Super Bowl; this track can be found on his MySpace page, as well. A remix of "Better Wise Up" featuring Audio Imagery has been circulating the internet since August 2007. There has been no official word from Kenna or from his label about this remix.
About Wayna Wondwossen
It has been said that Ethiopian-born, singer/songwriter Wayna possesses a voice that is as sweet and pure as it is honest and passionate. This young talent's love for music started as a child, when she starred in theater productions like "Annie," and "Damn Yankees" and toured with a children's musical review company. Wayna went on to hone her vocal talents as a young adult by absorbing the works of her favorite artists, including Minnie Riperton, Billie Holiday, Stevie Wonder, and Donny Hathaway.
While in college, Wayna was crowned Miss Black Unity of the University of Maryland in 1995, earning a one year tuision scholarship and special honors for "Best Talent" and "Best Response to Question" at the 17th annual pageant. The following year, she founded a gospel quartet and performed with the group at the World Famous Apollo Theater in Harlem, NY, where they placed as finalists in the Amateur Night competition. She traveled with the critically acclaimed University of Maryland Gospel Choir and regularly performed at churches and gospel showcases throughout the East coast.
After earning a Bachelor's degree with a double major in English and Speech Communication from the University of Maryland, Wayna began her professional career as a Writer in the White House for the Clinton administration. But soon, the pull to realize her dream as a recording artist would prove too great. She left to concentrate on her music full-time. Since then, Wayna has collaborated with legendary studio icon/producer Bill Laswell, with critically and comercially hailed producer Eran Tabib, Jive Records producer, Veit Renn, and former Touch of Jazz standout, Kev Brown. She is a featured vocalist/co-writer on on the Sly and Robbie album, Version Born released by Palm Pictures and also featuring contributions from Killah Priest, Black Thought, and N'dea Davenport. She's also served as a featured vocalist and writer on a number of independent projects for artists, including W. Ellington Felton, Kenn Starr, Kev Brown, Cy Young, and Tamara Wellons.
Wayna has recently opened for a number of internationally recognized artists on the DC leg of their respective tours, including Fantasia, Amerie, Common, Bobby Valentino, Jaguar Wright, Kindred, and Chuck Brown. She's performed and headlined at renown venues such as the White House (DC), the Temple Bar (CA), the Apollo Theater (NY), the Lincoln Theater (DC), Joe's Pub (NY), Dream Nightclub (DC), the Black Cat (DC), the 9:30 club (DC), Bohemian Caverns (DC), Takoma Station (DC), the Ashford and Simpson Sugar Bar (NY), and the Georgia Dome (GA).
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