Female sound

Jerusalem based EZsound is helping connect religious performers with all-women engineering crews.

EZsound 521 (photo credit: Courtesy of Pluto Studios)
EZsound 521
(photo credit: Courtesy of Pluto Studios)
When Yifat Sela was hired to produce the Emunah Dance and Dramatic Arts Festival, held in Givat Washington at end of October, she tried finding female sound and lighting engineers.
“It was a women’s festival for religious performers, and they didn’t want a man to watch them, especially because it’s not just singing but also [married] women dancing without hair coverings,” she explains.
The search was difficult, as most people that are trained in this field are male. But she finally connected with EZsound, a Jerusalem-based business that offers all-female crews for just such occasions. They sent her Yael Hadrian, a photographer and cinematographer from Tel Aviv. The Emunah festival was her first gig as a lighting technician.
“I do my own lighting when I am shooting,” says Hadrian. “Then a friend of mine saw a post on Facebook that EZsound was looking for a woman to do lighting for events, so I called them.”
EZsound was founded in 2004 by Ephraim Zuriel, now 24. He built up the business slowly during his high-school years and brought in a partner, Yitzchak Korchia, when he went into the army in 2007.
The partners looked for a niche to differentiate EZsound from its competitors, and that niche turned out to be female performers and productions. In 2009, they became the permanent sound company for the religious women’s band Ashira and picked up a few ulpanot and midrashot as clients. Several of these schools expressed an interest in all-female crews, not only out of concern for men seeing and hearing them perform at their productions but also because of the physically close contact involved in tasks such as putting on microphones, Zuriel says.
“I had a cousin at Emunah College [for women], which does all sorts of performances, and I sent them a letter asking if anyone was interested in learning this skill. I had dozens of replies – at least 50 – which was mind-blowing. There was clearly a really strong demand for girls who had no outlet for getting into this area. In the last few years, more and more performances are female only, for a female-only crowd.
But the technical side is lagging behind a bit,” he says.
EZsound now has several female freelancers available on request, although it costs the client extra because a male crew still is required to lug the gear.
“There’s really heavy equipment, and you need upper body strength,” says Zuriel. “So we need a male crew to set up the equipment even when we have a female to operate it. Some clients are willing to pay more for this service, but it’s a difficult service to offer in terms of staffing and fees. We try to find a balance so we don’t need two full crews.”
Shlomit and Gadi Finegold have trained a few women at the School of Sound Engineering and Music Production, part of their Pluto Studios recording complex in Tel Aviv. Shlomit is the agent for the upand- coming religious singer-songwriter Ruchama Ben-Yosef.
“Clearly, it’s preferable to have a female sound engineer because when we do shows, there is a certain atmosphere of only women in the audience. If a man is present, that energy changes,” she says. “Sometimes we have no choice and have to hire a man, so we ask him to make himself as inconspicuous as possible.”
Like Zuriel, Shlomit often needs to hire men just to convey the equipment.
“A lot of these shows are not at regular music venues, so they don’t have their own sound system and you have to bring it, and that requires men,” she explains. “If the show is in an auditorium with a good sound system, all you need is somebody who knows how to use the system.”
Gadi Finegold notes that there are usually two women in each of the school’s groups of 19 students, but this year there are four women.
“I think it is probably part of a trend because there are more women artists performing only for women,” he says.
Still, the availability of female sound and lighting technicians is not widely known.
“Only several clients a year take advantage of this service,” says Zuriel. “Because of the market, people don’t know to ask for a female crew. We suggest it to many of our clients as a more suitable option. And if they’re willing to pay more, they like this option.”
Sela says she checked with many companies before finding what she sought through EZsound. Some of the show’s organizers were skeptical about using Hadrian, whose prior experience was in cinema, not dance.
“I saw that she is professional, and it worked out nicely,” Sela says. “She helped out with the performers, and it was definitely more comfortable for some of the groups of women who performed that night,” she says.