GWMF 2017: Uprising – Interview with Gili Yalo

GWMF 2017: Uprising – Interview with Gili Yalo

When did you start to think that you wanted to be a singer?

At age four, when I was being carried on my father’s shoulders on our journey to Israel which took 2 months, I sang to everyone on the way. Everyone said that when i would get to Israel I would be a singer and it just happened!

Ethiopia has a rich musical tradition. Can you tell us a bit more about Ethiopian music?

Ethiopia is a very large country, with a population of about 100 million people, which is divided into various areas. Each area has it’s own tradition in music. In general there are five scales in music, and each scale has its own style. The use of every scale varies depending on which subject you are singing about. In Ethiopia music is not commercial, it simply is a way of life.

Your music is a mix between three cultures: Reggae roots, Ethiopian soul and Israeli music. How do you define your style?

I tend not to like to define my style but I was initially influenced by reggae music at a young age, and later on by RnB and Soul music, followed by funk, jazz and rock. Today i am very inspired by traditional Ethiopian music. Through my music i aim to enable the listener to understand who I am and where i’m from and to connect to the journey I have been through. The music that I make is a true reflection of who I am.

You have made two long trips: one with your music and the other one when you traveled with your family from Ethiopia to Israel. Did this influence in your music?

Yes, very much so. The long trip to Israel from Ethiopia is expressed in some of the lyrics in my songs and as i mentioned before, my passion for music began on my journey from Ethiopia to Israel.

You are a key musician on the renaissance of Ethiopian music in Israel: Ester Rada, AvevA, Adi Adonia… What are your next collaborations?

I just finished to record my debut solo album, and now I am open to finding new collaborations. I would actually be very interested in working with artists who make world music, not necessarily only from Israel. I find there is common ground between Ethiopian music to music in other parts of Africa and I would like to be able to express this in my next project.

What are you most proud of as a musician? Apart from Reggae or Soul, what do you love to listen to most in your daily life?

Firstly, I am proud to be a musician and I enjoy what I do. One of the highlights in my career was performing at Reggae Sumfest with top artists such as Jason Derulo, Wiz Khalifa, Chronixx and Shaggy.
Lately I have been listening to a lot of psychedelic music from Ghana and Nigeria. At the moment, I’m very into musicians such as Anderson Paak, Garry Clark, Fantastic Negrito and The Internet.

Which is your favourite song to perform?

I can’t say I have one special song which is my favourite, because it’s like asking a mother which child she loves the most! I mainly just love performing the music that I produce.

We would also speak about the Ethiopian traditional dance that is known for its unique emphasis on intense shoulder movement. Can you elaborate on this cultural trait?

Actually, the unique shoulder movement in Ethiopian dance, is only one of many Ethiopian cultural traits in dance and music. It’s associated with the tradition of Amhara people, which is also where I originate from. There are many other unique movements that can be seen in other areas of Ethiopia. There is a direct connection between the beat of Ethiopian music to the way people move when they listen to it, and it seems to me that its hard to move with your feet to the sounds of the music, which may explain why people move their shoulders!

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