The Hoodna Orchestra assembled on the lively and dusty streets of south Tel Aviv, the residential area of tens of thousands of migrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers from Africa. This original Afrobeat Ethio-Jazz Israeli ensemble was set up five years ago, near the Hoodna Bar in southern Tel Aviv. A group of 12 young Israeli musicians, curious and creative, who grew up on traditional jazz, and became familiar with African culture in general, and Ethiopian and Eritrean cultures in particular, mingling with representatives of these countries who are also close neighbors. The ability to communicate and work with vocalists and musicians who grew up on this rich musical tradition was a tremendous gift, a fountain of abundant knowledge and inspiration.
Hoodna, that is also an independent collective and a record label, came out of South Tel Aviv and integrated into the evolving scene of the music genre known as Isra-Africa. This music genre is also a journey of study and exploration of the African origins of Western popular music, adding healthy doses of rhythm and authenticity to the local scene. A profound observation of East African music and the rich culture of Ethiopian music has inspired exciting and new creations of comprehensive compositions, as well as wonderful and unique collaborations. Composer and guitarist, Ilan Smilan, Hoodna’s artistic and musical director, and one of the most prominent Isra-Africa artists, is a primary contributor to their materials.
With extra emphasis on sound, Hoodna incorporates analog recording with state-of-the-art digital equipment, reverberating the sound of the heyday of Ethiopian jazz and pop music in Addis Ababa in the 1960s and 1970s. Likewise, they also make sure to release their singles in their favorite nostalgic vinyl format. In June 2015, they released their debut album, collaborating with Kutiman, Karolina, Esther Rada and Gili Yalu, and receiving critical acclaim and the love of the audience.
In Eilat, Hoodna is hosting Ethiopian singer Demisu Belete, with whom they have collaborated in the past. Demisu, who grew up in the Addis Ababa club scene was influenced by veteran Ethiopian singers such as Mahmoud Ahmed and Tilahun Gessesse, and became a prominent singer in his own right introducing original spellbinding and uplifting lyrics. Together they will perform a new song titled, Elam, “the whole world” in Amharic. Indeed, the first-hand experience of collaboration and getting together with great Ethiopian and East African musicians is a whole world for them. A world created which successfully merges big band and jazz with Ethiopian music and local expressions. Hoodna is an outstanding combination of a well-tailored, tight, and elegant brass section and a vibrant and groovy authentic African rhythm section.
Two years ago, the Hoodna Orchestra arranged a performance at the HOLOT Detention Facility collaborating with several jailed asylum-seeking musicians, and as expected, it was a brilliant performance. This connection felt right, an opportunity to bring some joy to those who are imprisoned allowing them to express themselves in the common language of music. “No words were needed,” they said after this heartening performance, “we have music as a bridge.”
The Hoodna Orchestra
Tomer Tzuk Keyboards
Amir Sadot Bass
Elad Garlet Baritone Sax
Eilon Toschner Tenor sax
Rum Shani alto sax
Uri Zelinger Trombone
Itamar Ben Yakir Trumpet
Shachar Bar Conga drums
Rani Birnbaum, Raz Eitan Percussion
Matan Assayag Drums
Demisu Belete Vocals