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Posted : 20 November 2017 04:51:04 | By TWO Bureau | Two Bureau


The Hullegeb Israeli-Ethiopian Arts Festival marks its eighth year in 2017 starting on December 6 - December 28. This unique festival presents multifaceted traditional Ethiopian culture in the fields of music, theater and dance, and provides an encounter with Israeli culture and the fascinating links forged through collaboration between artists of the Ethiopian community and other Israeli artists. The 2017 festival’s gala opening performance features GetishMamo, one of the most popular vocal artists in Ethiopia today, accompanied by the Israeli-Ethiopian Tesafe ensemble.


Once again this year, the program offers a rich variety of performances displaying the cultural wealth and inspiring beauty of Ethiopian arts, both traditional and contemporary. The program includes a closing performance bringing together three virtuosos: Abate Barihun, YairDalal and Yossi Fein, who will perform their songs in surprising new arrangements; a special evening with Tezeta, the first Israeli-Ethiopian music ensemble of its kind; performances by Strong Black Coffee; Aveva Dese and Ground Heights; a dance performance by the Beta Troup; standup comedy; and a new original production by the Hullegeb Theater Ensemble.

The opening performance, GetishMamo and Tesfa Ensemble, gives the stage to one of the most popular vocal artists in Ethiopia today. Mamo, with a charismatic stage personality and velvety voice, will appear together with the Israeli-Ethiopian Tesfa ensemble. Mamo has composed over 300 songs for a variety of Ethiopian vocalists, and his performances generally include songs from the Golden Age of Ethiopian music (the 60s and 70s, prior to the coup of the military junta) in new arrangements combining traditional Ethiopian instruments with modern western ones. The Tesfa (“hope” in Amharic) ensemble, led by saxophonist-vocalist Abate Barihun, one of the outstanding musicians who made aliyah to Israel from Ethiopia, continues the musical path taken by Mamo, with a group of young musicians, focusing upon that important period in the history of Ethiopian music.



Vocal artist Aveva Dese, who the festival hosted last year, returns with a sensuous Afro-soul performance filled with her ensemble’s love. The performance will host Avi Wasa who, like Aveva, is a graduate of the IdanRaichel Project. Aveva and her ensemble focus upon lively and liberating rhythms in which African groove mixes with the urban beat of Tel Aviv, leaving one with no alternative but to get up and dance. Aveva rules the hypnotic rhythm with her rare voice, and her powerful songs, performed in English and Amharic, deal mainly with the theme of freedom. The ensemble has been performing for about four years and its first album, Who Am I, was released last year, produced by Yossi Fein, another festival guest. The concert is free-of-charge on the basis of available space at First Station.


The Ground Heights ensemble has been active for three years and is about to release its first album. This album is growing new branches in Jewish Ethiopian culture that intertwine with current Israeli culture. The performance LmimetowTuwled—“the next generation” in Amharic, combines original music written by members of the ensemble, sung in Amharic, Hebrew and English by charismatic soloist HavaHewanMeshesha—born in Israel to an Ethiopian immigrant family. The music is tempered with Israeli pop, reggae, neo-soul, rhythm-n-blues and jazz. One of Ground Heights’ new songs is the first Israeli song written in Amharic, in a joint effort with Hewan’s family. Ground Heights also performs Ethiopian classics of such artists as Mahmoud Ahmad and Jacky Gosee.

The Israeli-Ethiopian hip-hop-rap duo Strong Black Coffee—AylekSahalo and Uri Elmo—celebrates a new performance presenting songs from the duo’s new second album. Strong Black Coffee, which translated the hip-hop idiom to Hebrew, released a series of brilliant clips that got millions of views, and had three tours of appearances in the US. As always, Strong Black Coffee spices its songs with powerful messages relating to racism in Israeli society, but does not forgo an optimistic and entertaining joie de vivre.

Two of the most beloved artists of Confederation House’s flagship festivals—saxophonist and vocalist Abate Barihun of the Hullegab Festival and musician YairDalal of the Oud Festival, join together with Israeli bass player Yossi Fein. The three will sing their songs in surprising new arrangements. Ethiopian-born Abate Barihun also appears in the festival in the opening with Ethiopian vocalist GetishMamo and the Tesfa Ensemble. Dalal is an international artist, a pioneer of the ethnic music scene in Israel and abroad, whose compositions combine Jewish and Arab musical traditions. Yossi Fein is one of the most successful Israeli musicians internationally, with his own groundbreaking and original musical idiom. Fein has played with Lou Reed, David Bowie and Brian Eno, has produced albums for ShabakSamekh and HadagNahash, and brought dub music to Israeli audiences.

A trio of giants take the stage at the end of the festival as Shlomo Gronich opens the performance with guests, then to be followed by Mahmoud Ahmed, Aster Aweke and GossayeTesfaye. The evening will open with a fascinating performance in which Shlomo Gronich hosts Ester Rada, Abate Barihun and the Sheba Choir. The performance is titled: Mewachad (“together”)—emphasizing the similarity between these words in Hebrew and Amharic, a symbol of togetherness and solidarity. Gronich’s special arrangements of songs are performed by his guests as a tribute to the members of Israel’s Ethiopian community, whose cultural heritage enriches all of us. One of the three participants in the evening’s main performance is Mahmoud Ahmed, on his second visit to Israel. He has been one of the best loved vocal artists in Ethiopia and abroad since he began to appear in the early 1970s. His moving performance at the Hullegeb Festival four years ago is fondly remembered by many of his fans. Aster Aweke, who has also appeared in Israel previously, is known as “the Ethiopian Aretha Franklin” and is regarded as the greatest living Ethiopian female vocalist. Aweke, many of whose songs have become unofficial anthems, has performed for audiences in Ethiopia and abroad since the late 1970s. Joining these two artists is the young GossayeTesfaye, who represents the new generation of Ethiopian vocalists. Tesfaya, who rose to prominence after the fall of the military junta in Ethiopia in the 1990s, recorded one of his best-known songs, Adera, with Mahmoud Ahmed, and has performed with him around the world.

The Festival is produced in cooperation with Jerusalem’s Confederation House, the center for ethnic music and poetry, which is a Jerusalem cultural institution of long standing that emphasizes innovation and activities in the fields of ethnic music and poetry in Israel and abroad. The house also promotes the cultural activity of Ethiopian immigrants in Israel. 

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