Sounds Better In Amharic!" Yossi Vassa & Comedy
Yossi Vassa, an Ethiopian-Israeli
stand-up comedian came on tour to the U.S. last April to perform
his one-man show, "It Sounds Better in Amharic!" Directed
by Shai Ben Attar, translated by Howard Ripp, and co-written by
Yossi Vassa and Shai Ben Attar, this lively show depicted the
socio-cultural differences between growing up in Ethiopia and
Yossi was exposed to theatre
for the first time while attending Haifa University. There he
entered a competition in the Theatre arts division with his friend
Shemoel and to their surprise won first place. The duo then went
on to release their work as two films in Amharic entitled Addis
Zemen I and II selling over 6,000 copies in Israel.
While working on his current
show "It Sounds Better in Amharic!" Yossi felt it was very
important to express his inner feelings regarding his long journey
from his village in rural Ethiopia to the town of Netayna, Israel.
Although there are other Ethiopian Jews in theatre production
in Israel, few have ventured to perform at Yossi's level.
For Yossi, it was important not only to be creative but also to
succeed in his craft.
Yossi and Shai spent close to
seven months working on the script. The first show took place
in Tel Aviv. In the past two years Yossi has performed the show
over 200 times in Hebrew and approximately 29 times in English
throughout Israel, Canada and the United States. Yossi's
future goals include making a film in Hebrew and transitioning
from stand-up comedy to comedy films.
As he traveled extensively to
perform his shows he met with several Ethiopian communities and
was happy to discuss his life and work with them. "Ethiopia
never leaves us. To be able to work and help each other is an
important thing," he told us during his stay in San Francisco.
He is also pleasantly surprised at the relative ease by which
diverse communities have embraced his work. The eagerness of Ethiopians
both in Israel and abroad, to watch his shows has made him decide
to translate his Hebrew shows into Amharic as well.
For Yossi, the lessons learned are many. "If someone does
something seriously and with will power and from the heart _ they
will succeed" he proclaims. He ends our talk on an upbeat
note: "In the end we in the Ethiopian community must try
to succeed. To learn our history and not forget it. To try always
to contribute in our own way. And no matter what country we are
in we can relate to each other."