The Atlantic

The Genre-Defying Singer Inspired by Japanese Funk

Berhana, the Atlanta musician behind 2016’s “Janet,” talks about incorporating diverse geographic influences in his debut album, HAN.
Source: Denzel Golatt

When Berhana, the 27-year-old singer born Amain Berhane, finished his film program at the New School, he did what a lot of young artistic people in New York City do: He started working at a restaurant. During his time as a chef and assistant manager at Robataya, a now-defunct Japanese spot in the East Village, the recent graduate undertook a new, informal curriculum in Japanese culture; he was even tasked with learning to speak the language.

For the Atlanta native born to Ethiopian parents, the transition was difficult at first, but Berhana’s tight-knit group of co-workers helped shape the trajectory of his career. “I’m seeing them, like, all week,” Berhana said of his former colleagues when we spoke recently at Hi-Collar, another East Village outpost, owned by Robataya’s former managers. “And they’re putting me on to different books to read, different movies to watch, different music to listen

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