WINNIPEG — Israeli singer Hila Eytan certainly knows how to engage an audience.
Her enthusiasm proved to be contagious during two recent performances of popular Israeli songs she gave before a multi-ethnic audience in Winnipeg. It was no accident the audience eagerly began to clap, sing along, and even to get up and dance through much of her show. And Eytan wasn’t at all shy about dancing on stage with audience members, too.
“I have been singing all of my life, during school, and then in the army I sang in a band while I was in the Israel Defence Forces from 1990 to 1992. Afterward, I started performing for friends and family. Over the years, I have performed at a lot of happy occasions, such as bar mitzvahs and weddings and company events,” said the 37-year-old Eytan, who described her ancestry as “half Polish, half Romanian.”
In an interview, Eytan said that her singing career took off when she was discovered more than three years ago by the Tel Aviv Foundation, which solicits donors worldwide to invest in new kindergartens, daycares, schools and resource centres in Tel Aviv/Jaffa.
“I began working with the Tel Aviv Foundation after performing at an event at the home of [Tel Aviv Mayor] Ron Huldai. Huldai himself likes music and plays the flute very well. Now, I regularly perform at events where a new kindergarten, library or daycare is inaugurated, and the donors come to Tel Aviv for a special ceremony event,” said Eytan.
Although Eytan knows how to play the piano and guitar, she said, “I really don’t use them. It is the singing that I like. I concentrate on my voice. My husband, Ronnie, is my sound man. He sells medical equipment in his day job, but for the last nine years he has done all the sound work in the evenings when I sing.”
Eytan’s upbeat version of well-known Israeli songs, including Hallelujah, Yesh Li Yom Yom Hag and Ani Noladeti La shalom, along with her strong stage presence, succeeded in getting the audience here relaxed and clapping along.
By the time Eytan belted out Mashiach, Mashiach, most people in the mixed crowd of all ages were out of their seats dancing the horah. Eytan, who clearly enjoys creating a party atmosphere, made sure that the horahs continued until most audience members felt they had gotten a good workout.
“When I perform abroad, I see myself as representing Israel, as a goodwill ambassador, and I want to make people feel happy during the performance,” said Eytan.
She encouraged participation by walking through the audience and encouraging people to sing the chorus of popular songs into her microphone – and there were no shortage of volunteers.
“My favourite music is the old Israeli folklore songs – old, quiet songs, like Hayu Leilot. I love Naomi Shemer songs, and the songs of Uzi Chitman, but I usually perform songs that will make people want to dance,” she said.
Eytan sprinkled her performance with a number of classic slower songs, including beautiful renditions of Yerushalayim Shel Zahav and Oseh Shalom, and some audience members joined hands and swayed side to side.
Eytan said that she likes to sing English songs, but usually when she performs in the Diaspora, she is asked to sing in Hebrew.
So far, Eytan hasn’t tried to use the Internet to market her singing performances, “as most of my work comes from word-of-mouth.”
She said she doesn’t like to be out of Israel for long as her youngest child is only eight years old.
“But I am really excited to be here, because it is my first time being in Canada. Who knows, maybe I’ll come back and perform here someday for Yom Ha’atzmaut,” she said.