Gone to Karolina

The Eilat-born soulstress enjoys a pixie-dust mist of good fortune, a new solo album and continued success with the beloved Habanot Nechama.

February 16, 2010 02:08
At a recent concert, Avratz complained that her gi

mc karolina 311. (photo credit: Amit Israeli)


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The term "earth mother" could have been coined for Karolina. With her flowing rainbow clothes, swaying motions, and laid back musical pastiche of jazzy trip hop, reggae, funk and soul, she lays down a good-time groove and never lets go of it.

That vibe must be contagious, as it seems to have enveloped the Eilat-born singer/songwriter, whose full name is Avratz, with a pixie-dust mist of good fortune. With most musicians struggling to maintain one career, the single-monikered Karolina feels fortunate that she's flourishing on two fronts - her new album What Do I Do Now?, featuring the hit single "Happiness," has become a local favorite. And she's just returned to Israel from a successful US tour as one third of the beloved Habanot Nechama (The Comfort Girls), her ongoing vocal-blending collaboration with Yael Deckelbaum and Dana Adini.

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"The tour was amazing. It was our second time in the US and it was really successful," Karolina recently told The Jerusalem Post from her Tel Aviv home.

On the group's previous tour of the US in 2007, they performed at Radio City Music Hall and the Kodak Theatre for Israel's 60th birthday, following the release of their popular self-titled debut CD, a bilingual mix of jazzy harmonies and acoustica that established the trio as an Israeli Indigo Girls, or a female Crosby, Stills and Nash.

However, they were just developing their own following, and this time, they returned as crowd favorites, a development which Karolina found to be gratifying.

"I felt that something was happening - everywhere we went, the shows were full of people who knew the songs, and sang along," she said.

To stretch the CSN analogy, Karolina and her band-mates have been doing double duty between the group and their respective solo careers (Deckelbaum as a folk artist and Adini as an actress) ever since they first got together in 2004. And Karolina said they have all found the balance to be beneficial on all fronts.

"I was a solo artist for many years before Habanot, so I have a strong identity coming in, as we all did," she said.

"From the beginning, we all knew that our solo careers were going to remain really important. There was never an official agreement that we were going to try to keep all the things going, but Habanot is something that we get a lot of enjoyment out of, and it's made possible by the fact that we're all doing our own thing. Otherwise, it would be more complicated. If this was our main thing, there would be a lot more pressure. This way, it's really natural and fun.

"For me, Habanot is more relaxing, being with two friends who are helping each other out. I'm not the sole singer. When I'm on my own, something else is happening, which is also beautiful - I can build something on my own from beginning to end. With Habanot, I can breathe a little easier."

That's evident from the banter at a recent performance in Toronto, as recounted by the local Canadian Jewish Tribune.

"Never taking themselves too seriously, they laughed and joked on stage; Avratz complaining her giant hair was breaking off in the cold. She and Deckelbaum did a little impromptu scat singing, with Avratz imitating an entire horn solo by mouth. In response, Deckelbaum did a not-too-shabby impersonation of Louis (Satchmo) Armstrong..."

THE MUSICAL mischief rolls over into Karolina's solo career, in which every style and sound is fair game. That musical diversity dates back to well before she founded her first band, Funset, in 2000 and began making inroads in Tel Aviv's underground club and lounge scene. It began before she can even remember, growing up with musical parents in Eilat.

"My parents brought lots of music into our home - like Greek and Turkish music. It was my brother who brought in the funky stuff. I became devoted to jazz and soul music, and would listen to Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Nina Simone," recalled Karolina.

Falling in with like-minded musicians in Tel Aviv, Karolina founded the Funset Sound System and created something she called a "Ragga Pumpkin" sound - a lively blend of  reggae, soul and trip hop - which also featured in the name of the band's 2005 debut album, Live Ragga Pumpkin.

The album resulted in an ACUM award for Karolina - for composition - with the prize citing her "original style, fresh and lively, and her diverse ability to write and to excite with a unique sound." Another ACUM award - for Best New Song of 2007 - went her way for "So Far," a track from the Habanot album of that year.

When she went into the studio last year to record What Do I Do Now?, she brought along as producers two of her long-time collaborators, DJ/musicians Kutiman and Sabbo.

Kutiman, who gained worldwide notoriety last year for his inventive YouTube musical mashup "Thru-You," and Ronen Sabbo, one of the hottest DJs in Tel Aviv and one-fourth of the DJ crew Soulico, provided a sympathetic ear and a shot of inspiration for Karolina.

"The album is so personal, but it wasn't that way intentionally," said the singer. "We went into the studio and started playing, and it became a soul '70s funk session. I didn't really choose it, but Kuti, Sabbo and I just went with it. We didn't sit and discuss what my style is, we just floated along with the music and the lyrics.

"Kutiman and I have been friends for a long time. I sang on his album, and we jam together a lot. We see each other all the time and play for fun, so it was easy to record with him, very comfortable. He and Sabbo are amazing, and I'm fortunate I had them to lean on."

Kutiman and Sabbo were also on hand in 2008, when Karolina received the coveted opening slot for Erykah Badu's concert here, which followed opening acts the previous year for Black Eyed Peas and Lauryn Hill.

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