There are those who hold that all you need to do is ask for something and it will eventually wend its merry way to you. Presumably, Theodor Herzl, who has been credited with the anthemic “If you will it, it is not a dream” declaration, would go along with that line of thought. The Zionist visionary has a fellow optimist in the shape of Efrat Cohen, aka Fafa.
Cohen is the vocalist and brains, heart and drive behind an album called As You Are, by the band Fafa Galoure. As group monikers go – and there have been plenty of wild and wacky ones since the heyday of rock and roll back in the 1950s and 1960s – this is one of the more curious ones. Spelling notwithstanding, Cohen says the second part of the band name implies what one might suspect.
“Yes, Galoure is about abundance,” she notes when we meet up at a funky café in Tel Aviv’s hip Florentin district. At the time, Cohen was on crutches following a skiing accident, and the band’s album release gigs had been put on hold for a while. But she and the rest of the gang are up and running again, and their next show is at Ben’s Place in Karmiel on June 2 (doors open 9 p.m.).
Fafa Galoure, which performs songs, penned by the band leader, in English, could best be described as an indie band, although there are plenty of cultural and creative subtexts coursing through Cohen’s artistic veins. For starters, her singing accent clearly tends to the British side of the pond.
And there is a striking and somewhat quirky dark side to the lyrics and scores. “Inside, Inside, Inside Your Heart,” for example, is proffered as something of a burlesque number, with theatricality sitting comfortably alongside some understated vocals and instrumentals in a fetching oxymoronic blend.
Among the various impressions you may get from As You Are is that this is a well-cooked project, that it has been well thought through and was not reeled off in double-quick time. The same could be said for Cohen’s musical voyage.
“I think I have been following my musical road since the moment I left the womb,” she observes with a laugh. Not that she comes from a particularly musically inclined home.
“I’d say my parents were more music lovers than anything deeper.”
Any lack of hands-on creative inspiration in her domestic environment was more than compensated for by having access to some of the biggest acts in the global rock and pop arena.
“I lived in London from the age of three to the age of 13,” says Cohen. That explains her flawless British diction on the album.
“I was born in the Eighties, and I spent that and part of the Nineties in London. I got to see [Queen frontman] Freddie Mercury on stage, as a child. That was thanks to my parents. They took me to concerts from a very young age. I also saw Whitney Houston in her prime, and Michael Jackson.”
Curiously, there is a morbid connection between the aforementioned three stars. All died tragically young.
“Yes, they’re all gone now,” Cohen notes. “I was fortunate to catch them. I think seeing them gave me some momentum.”
It was Mercury who really lit her touch paper.
“When I saw him I realized he was everything I wanted to be. There was this androgynous thing about him – the gender-bender scenario. I saw him when I was five, so I suppose you could say I’ve known I wanted to be a musician since I was five,” she laughs. “Freddie had a woman and a man inside the same body, and everything was distorted. He had a powerful impact on me when I was young, and at a very important stage of my life.”
Some of that identity twilight zone comes across in Cohen’s onstage persona.
“Freddie was the only person I ever admired in my life. There were others, like [American singer-songwriter] Jeff Buckley [who died at the age of 32] or [iconic jazz pianist-vocalist] Nina Simone, I looked up to, but not on the level of admiring the human figure too, like with Freddie.”
With that fuzzy gender ethos in mind, As You Are seems like a neatly apt album title.
Cohen’s lyrics offer us plenty of food for thought. “No Sound,” for example, opens with “Don’t say you need it. Being swallowed into the hollow,” while “Tingle My Taste” kicks off with the non-too-upbeat “Draining my soul in a bath of bad decisions. Wondering where my mind used to be.”
If nothing else Cohen clearly has a fertile imagination, and there is a tenderness to her output too. Consider these lines in the atmospherically balladic “Clean Again”: “Such a sensitive soul. Didn’t know how to contain it all. Marching on at no cost alone. Didn’t understand what made me fall.”
And there are some neat arrangements on the album, taking in folkie, bluesy and rock textures in seamless fashion.
It comes as no surprise to hear about Cohen’s choral training in her youth, which took in operatic material as well as musicals, and during a long hiatus from singing – 15 years in total – she channeled her creative impulses to the plastic arts.
“I painted and sculpted,” she recalls. “I studied visual communication and practically every artistic technique going.”
Jazz, specifically, Duke Ellington, also comes into the Cohen mix.
You get that eclectic sensibility from As You Are and, no doubt, from Cohen’s live act too.
For more information and tickets: (054) 227-1188