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Musician Gili Yalo brings Ethiopian funk to Minneapolis

(Courtesy of Zohar Ralt)

Gili Yalo has been singing professionally since he was eight. The 42-year-old Ethiopian is based out of Israel, where he immigrated at the age of four. He’s been spending the last few years performing across the world and drawing inspiration from his travels. His Ethiopian and Israeli roots combined with his exposure to various genres of music inspire Yalo to push past the boundaries of soul, funk, groove, and jazz. Yalo says music is his greatest education.

“I don't have a degree, I didn't study that much when I was young. And music just brought me here.” Yalo continues. “The best way to expand your mind is to be in other places. See other people, other cultures. And that's what music brought me. I feel that I can understand other people better because of music.”

Yalo performs in both English and Amharic. He says his music is a tool to both preserve his culture and share his roots with the world.

“I truly believe there will be more and more African musicians and artists. There's just a process that society is going through. Culture is the most beautiful way to let people know you. Because of what I do, people know Ethiopian culture much better. The best way to bring the culture is through art.” Continues Yalo. “I'm just melting this down to my DNA and trying not to think about what genre I'm doing, and just to think about how I feel–lyric wise, melody wise, and rhythmic wise.”

This marks Yalo’s second visit to Minneapolis. He says he associates Minneapolis with beauty, connection, and affirmation due to its large African immigrant population. Yalo says he’s excited to be back.

“I never saw this kind of a town. There are a lot of African immigrants in a very small radius, and I was really, really fascinated by that. I was talking with some of the people after the show, and I really got a chance to get a glimpse of Minneapolis. And it's beautiful to see immigrants that came from Africa living their life in the city. I really appreciate that, because I'm an immigrant that came from Africa, so I can relate to what they feel and how they feel,” he said. “It's not easy to come from a different country with totally different cultures, especially when you're coming from Africa. It's beautiful to see people becoming part of society here in the USA.”

Yalo performs tonight (June 1) at The Cedar in Minneapolis. Doors open at 7pm, and the show starts at 7:30pm. Admission is $25 at the door.

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