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Meet the Israeli men singing Yemenite women’s songs

Published at The Turban Times


With the fusion of Latin classical guitar, Yemenite women’s songs, and African music, the Israeli band Gulaza creates a unique sound. The Turban Times met the band to talk about their music and how they are trying to break borders and build bridges.


BY HANAN CHEMLALI & MASIH SADAT


Ben Aylon is sitting on the couch, wrapped in a large thick scarf, playing on his guitar. It is an N’goni, he says – a string instrument from West Africa, the body often made of either wood or dried animal skin stretched over it. He plays it effortlessly while we smalltalk, as was it a natural extension of his own body.

Next to him sits Igal Mizrahi, with his piercing dark eyes, framed with what looks like a blue shaded kohl, an ancient eye cosmetic, and his rosary, with dark pearls twisted around his wrist. While Ben plays on his N’goni, Igal hums along.

Together, the two artists form half of the band Gulaza, a musical project reinterpreting ancient Yemenite non-instrumental songs that have passed from generation to generation, from mother to daughter. The two of them tell us about their music, mission, and mixture of cultures.

Igal and Ben. Photo: Roba Al-Sharkawi

Cultural melting pot

Igal and Ben are both Israeli, but their ethnic backgrounds are as mixed as the sound of their band.

Igal’s mother lived in Algeria but her family was born in Morocco. His father, on the other hand, was born in Israel but with parents originating from northern Yemen.

Igal was born in Rehovot, a city heavily influenced by Jewish immigrants from Yemen. Coincidently, Ben’s grandmother’s family is from the exact same city.

“It’s a funny connection that Igal is born in the same city. His family has practically been neighbors with mine, so the families probably knew each other,” Ben says, laughing mildly.

Ben himself is no exception when it comes to having a mixed background. He is a quarter South African, Argentinian, Italian, and Hungarian. He studied music in Gambia and Senegal, which is where he got to know his precious instrumental companion – the West African N’goni.

One day, several years ago, their musical paths crossed.

Full article available at The Turban Times

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