Israeli music: Putting one’s faith in Karma

Jerusalem-born psychedelic hip-hop musician Karma She performs at Levontin 7 this week as part of its 11th birthday celebration.

‘I USE this alter ego as a tool to push my own boundaries and become something much more confident, creative and powerful than I could be just as Carmel,’ says hip hop musician and visual artist Carmel Michaeli, aka Karma She. (photo credit: DAVID HAVRONY)
‘I USE this alter ego as a tool to push my own boundaries and become something much more confident, creative and powerful than I could be just as Carmel,’ says hip hop musician and visual artist Carmel Michaeli, aka Karma She.
(photo credit: DAVID HAVRONY)
It isn’t unusual for an artist or musician to have an alter ego, a persona that takes over the minute they hit the stage. Much like a superhero, you never know when they might rip off that suit and expose whatever exotic costume hides underneath.
Nonetheless, even when the greatest of superheroes go about their daily lives, that capital ‘S’ never fully disappears from Clark Kent’s muscular torso and Wonder Woman never loses her badass Amazon touch.
As a “feminist badass” herself, the beautiful Carmel Michaeli and her alter-ego Karma She fits this mold to a T, or more fittingly, a “she.”
“Karma She is my performative identity, my creative persona, so every art practice I produce revolves around her character,” Michaeli explains.
A rapper, performer and dancer draped in exotic outfits and sporting an decorative contact lens that gives her an otherworldly vibe, Karma She’s sound is an upbeat blend of hip hop and pop mixed with Shamanism and a psychedelic alternative reality.
Nonetheless, Karma She is not merely a role for Michaeli to play, but rather “an extension of Carmel... It’s not like I have a split personality; I am myself at all times. I don’t play Karma She, I am Karma She.”
The seasoned Tel Aviv-based artist – whose artistic seeds were originally planted in the visual arts garden – draws on her creative persona for empowerment to fuel her quotidian life.
“I use this alter ego as a tool to push my own boundaries and become something much more confident, creative, and powerful than I could be just as Carmel.” She continues, “Embodying Karma She turns up the volume on all kinds of aspects within myself that are very connected to the performing element.”
And it only takes a few seconds of watching her “Salad Summer” music video or listening to a song from her first EP, Spiritual Playgirl, to understand just how cranked up that volume is. What started off as a performance art project has evolved into a psychedelic hip-hop extravaganza – complete with costumes, makeup, performers, choreography, set pieces, and “at the base of it all, music.”
As a natural-born artist, Michaeli paints a picture of her half-art-half-musical events: “I like to think of each performance as its own individual opera where all the visual elements come together to create an epic and spirited experience, a very whole, immersive experience.”
So how exactly did this deeply spirited identity come to fruition? “Karma was a childhood nickname of mine,” Michaeli explains. “During a very spiritual trip to India a few years ago, I discovered a strong desire to merge my music, my art and my life into one all-encompassing entity based on Indian symbols and mythologies. When I returned, I sought a name that connected Eastern and Western elements.”
Michaeli places emphasis on the importance of the “she” in Karma She. It highlights her alter ego’s “creative feminine energy,” which translates to the material that the musician is driven by.
While her name itself intimates this feminine energy, it is further accentuated through the character type she has chosen to embody: a witch.
“I identify with the concept of a witch because witches were – and even are today – women chased after by men simply for being strong. They have a negative connotation associated to their name that I would like to change.” “I’m a good witch,” Michaeli boasts.
Her first goal as a musician is to put out the message that women, like [good] witches, can do whatever they want, look however they want and achieve whatever they choose to. Paired with a secondary objective to promote freedom and acceptance of who you are and of otherness in all people, Karma She is practically the next Israeli Wonder Woman after Gal Gadot.
While her performances are extremely multi-layered, they start from a simple concept: a beat.
“The beat inspires the music, then a performance, then choreography, and only later do the visual aspects come into play.”
“Every performance – or ‘party’ – that I put on is different. Each is connected to the particular context.”
It could be the location, such as her recent tour to China in collaboration with director and actress Omer Goldman, artist and life partner Yuval Gallili and Tianzhuo Chen of the artist collective “Asian Dope Boys,” or it could be the specific event, such as her upcoming performance at Levontin 7 on July 28, in celebration of the Tel Aviv venue’s 11th birthday, which she titled “Siren’s Night Out.”
Michaeli explains, “‘Siren’s Night Out’ is all about creating a safe space for women to be beautiful and feel free, to dance and express themselves without judgment.”
“Men are invited too,” she tacks on like an afterthought, “but only feminist men.”
On a visual level, the Levontin event will include one of Michaeli’s special installations in collaboration with light and video artists, plus performers, dancers, and female rapper MC Ziffi to kick off the electric evening.
“The idea of the performance is to excite the audience, to make them feel strong energies, to make them trip on the beauty, tension and visual stimulus that both surrounds them and exists inside each and every one of them,” what Michaeli coins “a field of opportunities” as individuals find ways to reinvent themselves and come out of their insular bodies for a few hours, and hopefully many more hours in the future.
“All in all, I’m expecting it to be a badass feminine night,” Michaeli finishes.
Karma She performs at Tel Aviv’s Levontin 7 on July 28 at 11:30 p.m. For tickets: