A star is (re)born

Some says she's Israel's Avril Lavigne. But according to rising star Gilat Hillel, she's one of a kind.

October 3, 2007 10:56
4 minute read.
A star is (re)born

gilat hillel 224.88. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Gilat Hillel is a young woman with a mission. Known in the music industry simply as Gilat, the 21-year-old is poised to go the distance. While her debut album has yet to be released, she has had three highly acclaimed singles given generous airplay on Israeli radio, and recently received a career boost of gargantuan proportions. The global Walt Disney company contacted several countries around the world which air its Jetix children TV channel, looking for a singer in each country to perform the theme tune there. After screening a large number of candidates in Israel, Gilat was asked to sing the song for the High School Musical movie which is due to be screened on Jetix on August 30. It is quite an achievement for a singer who is just starting out. "I was really surprised and flattered when I was chosen by Disney to do the song," Gilat enthuses. "It is a great compliment, and it could really open some doors for me." Gilat isn't getting too far ahead of herself though. While she may be a very ambitious young woman, she has both feet firmly planted on the ground. "The Jetix thing is great, but there's a long way to go before I can say I've made it. There's a lot of work to be done first." Gilat has certainly started putting her all into her burgeoning career. When we chatted she had just finished a grueling day spent shooting a new video clip for the High School Musical song. "I'm really tried," Gilat admitted, "but I'm happy. The shooting went well and, despite the exhaustion, I feel energized, I feel good about the way things are going with my career right now." With hindsight, it is easy to see how Gilat ended up singing for her supper. She comes from mixed Egyptian-Yemenite background and says she always knew she was going to be a singer. "I have been singing and writing lyrics ever since I can remember," she says. "But, even then, I knew it was just going to be a matter of opening my mouth and waiting for the recording contracts and big bucks to come rolling in. I always knew I'd have to put everything into getting a foothold in the industry." The singer's "Biglalcha (Because of You)" single and video clip have featured highly on Israeli music TV Channel 24 and it is clear that Gilat knows how to strut her stuff. There is a highly persuasive energy about her which captivates TV and live audiences alike. "I feel I have a lot to offer Israeli music fans, and the market here," declares Gilat. Some years ago there were quite a few women rockers around, but almost all have them have disappeared. I want to bring them back." GILAT GREW up, in Ma'aleh Adumim near Jerusalem, on a highly varied musical diet. There was the ethnic material her parents brought into the home, and there were more contemporary influences. "I like Whitney Houston and Pink Floyd," she says. "I loved the energy they put out, and the revolutionary sounds and ideas they got across. It is mesmerizing stuff." There was also a two year "hiatus" in the Israeli army which, in fact, helped Gilat hone her skills. "I was in an army band. We performed all kinds of songs - old and new - and that helped me learn hot to perform on stage. I've taken that valuable experience with me ever since." The IDF was followed by an attempt at winning Israel's A Star Is Born talent show - she was summarily dismissed and told that "not every pretty girl should try her luck at singing." Far from discouraged, Gilat doubled her efforts to make her mark on the local music scene. After a year of hard work with the musical producer Oren Shitrit her debut single, "Lying to Myself," was released in February this year. The song quickly became a hit on all of Israel's radio stations, topped the chart shows and placed second in cellular downloads in Israel. Gilat's performances have attracted rave reviews from the Israeli media, and she has even been dubbed "the Israeli Avril Lavigne." She is typically modest about such a heady comparison. "That's very complimentary and I can see why the comparison has been made," she muses, "but I don't want to be 'the new Avril Lavigne.' I'm Israeli and she's American. We come from different backgrounds, but she's a great artist and very inspiring." With the Jetix slot, and the Lavigne comparisons, one wonders whether Gilat has any designs on breaking out onto the global market. "Maybe at some time," she says with characteristic understatement, but for now, I'm concentrating on the local scene. I'd be happy to sing stuff in English but I really want to establish myself in my own country first." Despite her emerging success, Gilat never forgets where she comes from. "My parents have always been very supportive of me. I couldn't have done any of this without them. Right now I feel the sky's the limit."

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