By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
“Ethiopian pop and Eritrean pop? I don’t know why I love it so much or identify with it, but I just do,” Top says. “Why do I feel this shit, why do I have to do this shit?”
Here, in the idea and culture of Ethiopia, Fool’s Gold takes root. After all, Ethiopia is a land of origins and sanctity. It is the cradle of civilization, home to Lucy, the 3.2 million–year-old Australopithecus skeleton, and early–20th century Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, exalted as god incarnate by Rastafarians.
Top’s mother, he says, thinks he has a spiritual connection to Ethiopia’s Jewish heritage. The Beta Israelites of Ethiopia believe themselves to be the lost tribe of Israel, and Emperor Selassie traced his lineage to King Solomon. Though many Ethiopian Jews were airlifted back to Israel in Operation Moses in 1984, and Operation Solomon in 1991, Top and Pesacov dream of going back and playing Hebrew Ethiopian soul for those left behind.
The decision to sing in Hebrew was natural and unexpected, says Top. “When we started the band,” he explains, “[we] just jammed with no vision. Then it just seemed organic to sing in another language, because the music we were listening to [at that time] was in another language. So I was, like, BTW, I know another language.”
Top was born in Israel to an Iraqi mother and a Russian father. He came to California at 3 years of age, and lost the connection to his Israeli roots. “I grew up thinking I had no home,” he says, “and I didn’t really identify with the people here. Singing in Hebrew now helps me explore this side I barely know. It allowed me a freedom. There was a bit of a security blanket in knowing that people couldn’t understand what I was saying. They were connecting with the pure sound of my voice.”
Fool’s Gold aren’t world music, but they are worldly. They represent real stories of L.A., about immigration and assimilation, outcasts and innovators, co-existence. “Growing up with this strange duality maybe led me to seek out different [cultures] to identify with. I really identify with this meld of Eastern and Western music, it’s everything I am. I think we’re punk.”
Fool’s Gold perform at the Roxy with Metronomy on Friday, October 9.