The lineup of this week’s Israel Music Showcase Festival, like each year, is a variegated affair. The 12th edition – the Mix Edition – features acclaimed and lesser-known acts from across the country’s rock, jazz, indie, world and electronic music sectors.
Among the artists whose profile has yet to hit global proportions is a certain Keren Rothstein, aka DJ Gondi – referencing a staple of Persian cuisine – who appears in the program on November 28.
Over the past year or so Rothstein has gained a reputation as one to watch out for on the electronic DJ scene. Audiences up and down the country have merrily grooved and jived to the rhythms and beats she has dispensed from her console.
But that doesn’t tell half the story of the 25-year-old graduate of the Academy of Music and Dance High School.
“I studied singing, and I performed opera and all sorts of things,” she says.
The latter references her Persian cultural roots. Her mother is well-known Persian music singer Janet Rothstein, with whom Keren still performs.
But despite honing her craft as a vocalist, the most demanding role in live music in terms of personal emotional exposure, Rothstein says she wasn’t always as outgoing as she now is. “They are very tough at the academy, and you have to get everything just right; otherwise, you are worthless. I was very shy. I didn’t have much self-confidence.”
That completely transformed following a life-changing, in fact a life-threatening, situation. While Rothstein was traveling the globe on an extended post-IDF trip, she began experiencing bouts of extreme exhaustion. She was all of 22 years old.
“I was in Fiji and I’d just volunteered to work at a kindergarten for underprivileged children,” she says.
She wasn’t happy about curtailing her odyssey, but she eventually acceded to her mother’s protestations and came home.
Here she was diagnosed with advanced cancer and underwent a trying period of chemotherapy and other forms of treatment. Thankfully, that culminated in a clean bill of health, and also left Rothstein with an insatiable hunger to get out there and live life to the full.
“I have been as healthy as an ox for two years now,” Rothstein exclaims. “I was really unconfident, but, when I got sick, I found this strength within me that I didn’t know I had. I also discovered yoga, and that gave me a sense of tranquility and peace I’d never known before.”
Music was, and continues to be, a healing element in her life. “I discovered joy, which helped me recover. I wanted to share that with others, too.”
That meant imparting her newfound positivity to other cancer sufferers in hospitals, and to the public at large in her professional musical capacity. There is now no stopping Rothstein.
“I wanted to spread this joy around to the four corners of the world,” she laughs. “I want to be present in every moment, and share my love with everyone. When you do that, there is no suffering, no anxiety over the future. Every time I get on the stage, I remind myself I love myself, and I love the people in the audience, regardless of who they are. I give absolutely everything. Why not?”
Why not indeed?