Zeritu Kebede was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on February 19, 1984. Her father Kebede Woldegiorgis was an architect and her mother Engida Mitiku was a housewife, who was thirty years younger than her husband.
Zeritu grew up in Gulele Area in northern Addis Ababa. She was brought up in a strict manner and isolated from the other children of the neighborhood. However, Zeritu spent most of her summers at her maternal grandparents who were very liberal and very close to their neighbors. There, Zeritu got the opportunity to meet and play with kids from families with different social statuses.
As a young girl in a quiet house in Gulele, Zeritu read books voraciously, listened to country stories suggested by the house helps, played and watched football with her brother and spent time on trees watching birds and the neighborhood beyond the fences, in pursuit of entertainment. But music was what entertained and resonated with her the most. She went through her parents’ collection of records and cassettes and listened to anything she found interesting. Among her parents collections were, her father’s favorites Nat King Cole, Kassa Tessema, Mahmud Ahmed and others; her mother’s collections of artists like Tom Jones, Muluken Melesse, and Donna Summer. She also collected cassettes which introduced her to artists like Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Michael Bolton, Boyzone, Tracey Chapman and Bob Marley.
Zeritu attended Lazarist Catholic elementary school.
Zeritu became interested in music since she was a little girl. She went on stage for the first time while she was a fifth grader, singing a Michael Jackson song, “Will you be there?” Later, she started writing songs and short plays with her friends and performing them. That is the time she decided that it is what she wanted to for the rest of her life. While still in high school, Zeritu and her friends made their first money from ‘Yegeterua Emebet,’ a song they co-wrote and performed, which was to be made a sound track for a program on ETV (Ethiopian Television) on the issue of early and forced marriage, although the program never aired for unknown reasons.
After high school, Zeritu decided to start singing professionally. Through her connection with Henok Mehari, a singer and keyboard player, she went on to join Sweet Band. But after only one gig at the Famous Lion’s club the band was replaced. Zeritu then auditioned to join the renowned Express Band, and was hired. At Express Band, Zeritu played songs of Celine Dion, Tracey Chapman, Mariah Carey, Lauryn Hill, Shania Twain, Norah Jones and Shakira, among others, at several events and clubs.
While working at Express Band, Zeritu was going to Adama University, located 100 kilometers outside of Addis Ababa. But After half a semester, Zeritu dropped out and decided to fully focus on her blossoming career. She started taking private guitar class and joined Holy-land Art academy, where she was trained in acting and script writing for a year and a half.
Zeirtu then auditioned successfully for a role in a television drama series to be directed by the renowned Ethiopian director, Abate Mekuria. Although the drama she auditioned for never aired, she performed in another play written and directed by Abate Mekuria and took part in the East African Theater Festival held in Mombasa, Kenya.
Rise to stardom
While working on her own debut album at Begena Studio, Zeritu was offered a part on a group song that was being produced for raising awareness on HIV/AIDS. The song ‘Mela’, written by Michael Belayneh and Yilma Gebreab and produced by Elias Melka (whom she met through their mutual friend and her guitar coach, Zekarias Getahun), involved legendary singers like Menilik Wosinachew, Alemayehu Eshete, and Tamirat Mola.
In December 2004, when Mela was released, Zeritu instantly became a star. People wanted to know who she was and where she came from. Her vibrant voice, her passionate performance and her short hair style became the talk of the town. Every one wanted more and could hardly wait for her own album. This ultimately set the path to her establishment as one of the greatest starts the country has ever known.
After eighteen months in the studio, in September 2005, Zeritu’s self-titled album was released. The album that included songs like ‘Endaygelegne,’ the first single from the album, ‘Athidibigne,’ the youth’s favorite, ‘Deg Abate Kifu Balua,’ a song which was critically praised for its lyricism and Zeritu’s personal favorite ‘Yane,’ became one of the most successful albums in the history of Ethiopian music.
From March 2006 to April 2006, Zeritu went on a national tour ‘Guzo Zeritu’ and performed in major Ethiopian cities including Addis Ababa, Adama, Hawassa, Dire-Dawa, Harar, Bahir-Dar, Jimma, Mekele, Dessie and Gondar. The tour was the first of its kind and also included another famous singer Abinet Agonafir who wrote and performed ‘Akal le Akal’ a duet with Zeritu for her debut album. The tour was backed by the Mehari Brothers Band, which was founded by Henok Mehari.
Zeritu played an important role in the production of Eyob Mekonnen‘s debut album released in 2007. She wrote the songs ‘Tiwedegnalech’ and their duet from the album, ‘Yene Qonjo’. Zeritu also wrote Eyob’s single ‘Yefikir Akukulu’ which was released later.
Zeritu then toured the United States with the Mehari Brothers and played on a few stages in Europe and in the UAE. She also started experimenting with Jazz and acoustic bands performed several stages.
Jean Albert Levier, the director of the environmental documentary ‘Les syndrome du titanic’ has used Zeritu’s song ‘Yane’ as the sound track for his film, which is based on the best selling book of the well-known French ecologist Nicolas Hulot.
In December 2012, Zeritu picked on her career in acting and film production when she began the production of the film ‘Kemis Yelebesku’let,’ later released in January 12, 2014. Zeritu co-wrote, produced and acted in the film, and wrote and performed the sound track song of the film ‘Alehu,’ produced by the renowned Abegaz K. Shiota who also scored the films music.
In the film, Zeritu plays a slightly tom-boyish college girl who refuses to date stating it is a waste of time since we all really are alone. The character eventually finds love and gets in touch with her femininity that nature initially intended. The film has been a national success, being acclaimed by viewers and by critics. Zeritu’s second acting role came when she wrote acted in ታዛ.
Zeritu is in production of her third film, ‘Pagumen,’ which she wrote, and will co-produce.
Zeritu Kebede has been married to Lakachew Mengistu since 2005. They are parents of three boys, Kristian Lakachew (born February 2007), Mengistu Lakachew (born August 2009) and Tselot Lakachew (born September 2012), during the production of Zeritu’s film, “Kemis Yelesku’let. Zeritu’s husband, Lakachew Mengistu, a football player and a business man, is son of the greatest Ethiopian football player of all time and Coach Mengistu Worku.
Social activism and Christianity
Zeritu has a strong commitment to social activism and was named a Climate Icon by the British Council. As a climate icon, Zeritu wrote and performed ‘Artificial’, a hit single that played a role in awakening young people to how much life is dominated by technology and promotes appreciation and care for the world of nature. Zeritu pioneered the Ethiopia Arengwade (Ethiopia Green) initiative in collaboration with well-known singer Michael Belayneh and journalist Mohamed Kassa to bring attention to the importance of caring for the environment. Growing up in one of the greener parts of Addis Ababa, Zeritu has a strong appreciation for trees and the beauty that nature brings to everyday life. Ethiopia Arangwade staged a concert in 2010 called “Melody for Greenery” to raise awareness and encourage people to plant and care for trees.
Zeritu has also been a spokesperson for social campaigns raising awareness about HIV/AIDS and, with UNICEF, promoting breastfeeding. Zeritu believes in giving back; if there’s a way that she can help, she will do it.
Zeritu has found faith and became the follower of Jesus Christ. Following her spiritual awakening, she has decided to honor God through her career in music and film, and to serve the society in the future projects. Besides form being a follower of Jesus Christ, Zeritu belongs to no religious organization, neither does she have any doctrinal affiliation. She believes in just following Jesus Christ and striving to live according to the Word of God.