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.

mc karolina 311 (photo credit: Amit Israeli)
mc karolina 311
(photo credit: Amit Israeli)
The term "earth mother" could have been coined for Karolina. With herflowing rainbow clothes, swaying motions, and laid back musicalpastiche of jazzy trip hop, reggae, funk and soul, she lays down agood-time groove and never lets go of it.
That vibe must be contagious, as it seems to have enveloped theEilat-born singer/songwriter, whose full name is Avratz, with apixie-dust mist of good fortune. With most musicians struggling tomaintain one career, the single-monikered Karolina feels fortunate thatshe's flourishing on two fronts - her new album What Do I Do Now?,featuring the hit single "Happiness," has become a local favorite. Andshe's just returned to Israel from a successful US tour as one third ofthe beloved Habanot Nechama (The Comfort Girls), her ongoingvocal-blending collaboration with Yael Deckelbaum and Dana Adini.
"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 RadioCity Music Hall and the Kodak Theatre for Israel's 60th birthday,following the release of their popular self-titled debut CD, abilingual mix of jazzy harmonies and acoustica that established thetrio 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 tobe gratifying.
"I felt that something was happening - everywhere we went, the showswere full of people who knew the songs, and sang along," she said.
To stretch the CSN analogy, Karolina and her band-mates have been doingdouble duty between the group and their respective solo careers(Deckelbaum as a folk artist and Adini as an actress) ever since theyfirst got together in 2004. And Karolina said they have all found thebalance 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 toremain really important. There was never an official agreement that wewere going to try to keep all the things going, but Habanot issomething that we get a lot of enjoyment out of, and it's made possibleby the fact that we're all doing our own thing. Otherwise, it would bemore complicated. If this was our main thing, there would be a lot morepressure. This way, it's really natural and fun.
"For me, Habanot is more relaxing, being with two friends who arehelping 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 buildsomething on my own from beginning to end. With Habanot, I can breathea 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 onstage; Avratz complaining her giant hair was breaking off in the cold.She and Deckelbaum did a little impromptu scat singing, with Avratzimitating an entire horn solo by mouth. In response, Deckelbaum did anot-too-shabby impersonation of Louis (Satchmo) Armstrong..."
THE MUSICAL mischief rolls over into Karolina's solo career, in whichevery style and sound is fair game. That musical diversity dates backto well before she founded her first band, Funset, in 2000 and beganmaking inroads in Tel Aviv's underground club and lounge scene. Itbegan before she can even remember, growing up with musical parents inEilat.
"My parents brought lots of music into our home - like Greek andTurkish music. It was my brother who brought in the funky stuff. Ibecame 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 theFunset Sound System and created something she called a "Ragga Pumpkin"sound - a lively blend of  reggae, soul and trip hop - which alsofeatured 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 herdiverse ability to write and to excite with a unique sound." AnotherACUM award - for Best New Song of 2007 - went her way for "So Far," atrack 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 inventiveYouTube musical mashup "Thru-You," and Ronen Sabbo, one of the hottestDJs in Tel Aviv and one-fourth of the DJ crew Soulico, provided asympathetic ear and a shot of inspiration for Karolina.
"The album is so personal, but it wasn't that way intentionally," saidthe singer. "We went into the studio and started playing, and it becamea soul '70s funk session. I didn't really choose it, but Kuti, Sabboand I just went with it. We didn't sit and discuss what my style is, wejust 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 forfun, so it was easy to record with him, very comfortable. He and Sabboare amazing, and I'm fortunate I had them to lean on."
Kutiman and Sabbo were also on hand in 2008, when Karolina received thecoveted opening slot for Erykah Badu's concert here, which followedopening acts the previous year for Black Eyed Peas and Lauryn Hill.