Ethiopian Israeli singer performs in legendary London Jazz club

  (photo credit: Embassy of Israel in United Kingdom)
(photo credit: Embassy of Israel in United Kingdom)

Ethiopian Israeli singer Gili Yalo performed at legendary Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London in November. The event was organized by the Embassy of Israel in the United Kingdom to celebrate the festival of Sigd by offering the British audience the opportunity of discovering more about the history and heritage of Ethiopian Jews.

The evening was opened by a lecture by former Mossad agent Yariv Gershoni, who took part in Operation Moses, a covert operation that airlifted thousands of Ethiopian Jews from Sudan during a famine in 1984.

Among them was also four-year-old Yalo.

“The first time I remember singing to a crowd, it was on our journey to Israel,” he recalled during an interview with the London Jewish Chronicle after the show. “I loved singing. And people really enjoyed my singing, and told my father that I will be a musician.”

  (credit: Embassy of Israel in United Kingdom) (credit: Embassy of Israel in United Kingdom)

Yalo and his parents crossed the desert by foot in a perilous journey that saw some 4,000 people loosing their lives. They eventually made it to Sudan and then Israel, where a new challenge awaited them: becoming part of the Israeli society.

““It wasn’t fashionable to be Ethiopian back then. So we hid our identity,” he told the Jewish Chronicle. “We never talked about it. It was embarrassing for kids, because we were trying to be part of this Israeli society. That was a kind of identity crisis. You don’t want to be Ethiopian, but you cannot change it. Look at you!”

Decades later, a lot has changed.

"Now people are going back to their roots, and suddenly they’re proud of who they are. It took a lot of time for us to understand that it’s OK not to forget your past to go to the future. You can take it with you, and maybe it makes you strong, because it’s your roots.”

During the show, Yalo performed his music but also spoke about his story, his identity and his music.

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