Time Out Israel caught up with Ground Heights’ lead singer, Hewan Meshesha, just before the release of a brand new album (featuring their first Ethiopian original) and performance at the eighth annual Hullegeb festival.
By Jennifer Greenberg (Time Out Israel) |
Hewan Meshesha: Roots, reggae, and R&B
Was music a big part of your upbringing?
Of course, music was always there as the soundtrack to my life.
How prevalent were Ethiopian customs to you when you were younger?
Very prevalent. My Ethiopian culture was always there in terms of music, food, language, etc. I had the privilege of growing up surrounded by strong people (my parents and the rest of my family) who were very proud of their heritage and passed it on to me.
How did you meet your bandmates?
I met Shalev Ne’eman in music school [Rimon], we formed a band together, and overtime it became Ground Heights. We struggled for a while until the right people, such as Yotam Cohen–who brought the passion and tightened the message and goals of our band–came along, and it all came together.
Where did the name “Ground Heights” originate?
Shalev was the one who suggested it along with other names and we chose Ground Heights because of the opposition of these two words, which described exactly what we bring–old and new, our roots and the tree top we’re trying to reach, the past and the future.
What other styles do you incorporate into your music?
We started mainly with R&B, Reggae, and Dub music with slight Ethiopian touches. We used to end our shows with one Ethiopian number and felt that with me knowing Amharic and the guys absolutely falling in love with the Ethiopian groove and sound, we could write our own “IsraEthiopian” original songs that carry deep contemporary messages.
A lot of Ethio-Israeli singers cover a wealth of Ethiopian artists, especially Mahmoud Ahmed. What twists do you put on these covers to make them your own?
As a band, we are constantly trying to bring new ideas to our music, original or covers. When we cover an Ethiopian song we play it on western instruments instead of traditional Ethiopian instruments. By trying to imitate these traditional sounds with western instruments we had to make compromises, which led to a new, unique sound. We add our own styles of music that we grew up on to songs like “Ashkaru” (Mahmoud Ahmed), where we opened the song and added hip-hop grooves to it. But the best example is our original IsraEthiopian song, “Yehiyot Nuro.”