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Israeli-Ethiopian fest offers singer a familiar crowd for latest debut

Ayala Ingedashet joins Hullageb to show off her newest material

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Artist Ayala Ingedashet will perform new songs at the annual Hullageb Festival, December 7-14, 2022. (Courtesy Refael Shahari)
Artist Ayala Ingedashet will perform new songs at the annual Hullageb Festival, December 7-14, 2022. (Courtesy Refael Shahari)

When singer Ayala Ingedashet joins the Hullageb Israeli-Ethiopian Arts Festival stage on December 12, it will be a debut of sorts for this veteran Israeli artist of Ethiopian descent.

“I’ll really show off the new Ayala,” she said. “You’re catching me at a moment when I’m reborn.”

“Going Out to the Light” is Ingedashet’s upcoming show at Hullageb, reflecting upon two difficult years of personal pain and change that recently took place in her own family, something she speaks about in conversation.

The experience brought about new songs that both expose and renew Ingedashet, who credits her mother and four sisters, as well as her musical “sister,” writing partner Malka who is ultra-Orthodox, yet channels Ingedashet’s mind and soul, she said.

“Music is what keeps me going,” said Ingedashet. “When I get to the stage, it’s all forgotten, it’s like two separate worlds. The guitar starts playing and it’s a different Ayala up there.”

There’s probably no better stage for freeing that alter ego than Hullageb, the festival that celebrates Ethiopian culture.

“I’m Ethiopian, it’s my culture, and it represents me and all kinds of artists from my community,” said Ingedashet, who came to Israel when she was just two years old, speaking Hebrew before Amharic.

While Ingedashet thinks of herself as Israeli first, she is often considered the first Ethiopian-Israeli to perform in an IDF band — she was part of a Navy troupe during her army service; she was one of the first Ethiopian-Israeli soloists in a band; and was one of the first to appear on the Habima stage and on television.

“I was the only one for a long time and I didn’t get the meaning of that,” said Ingedashet. “When I finally understood that younger Ethiopian-Israelis saw me as an example, I became proud of it. But it’s even better to have this shade of skin that isn’t unusual any longer.”

For now, Ingedashet’s latest songs are in Hebrew with touches of Ethiopian culture and Amharic. That makes the most sense for her, she said.

“I’m Ayala, I’m ‘gam v’gam,'” she said.” I’m also Israeli and and also Ethiopian. You’re catching me at a moment when I’m reborn.”

The festival, taking place December 7-14, is produced by Effi Benaya at Jerusalem’s Confederation House, and will be performed there and at sites around the city, including an opening concert at the Yellow Submarine, new plays, and a spoken word performance with Orit Tashuma.

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