While there’s life, there’s hope

Deep house DJ Roy Rosenfeld spins tales of human connection.

Roy Rosenfeld: Music is a religion in every way.  (photo credit: OMER LIPINER)
Roy Rosenfeld: Music is a religion in every way.
(photo credit: OMER LIPINER)
‘I was afraid you were going to talk politics with me,” Roy Rosenfeld sighs with relief. His voice is deeply melancholic, yet filled with hope, much like his new four-track EP, Rumbala.
Immediately, I shift gears, retracting my next question: Does the EP refer to the horrific Rumbala massacre, which claimed the lives of 25,000 Latvian Jews in 1941?
I would later find out that the self-proclaimed apolitical DJ had no intention of referencing this event in his recent release with the Brooklyn-born All Day I Dream label. He didn’t even know what to call his title track until fellow producer Eli Nissan pointed out that his friend had managed to unintentionally write a rumba.
Rosenfeld expands, “Once I noticed its Latin flavor, I decided to give the track a strong name, one that everyone would recall. The -la was a little extension to make the hit inviting and memorable,” he says, highlighting a common Israeli device used to add a certain lightness to Anglicized (and Hebrew/foreign) terms.
Although Rosenfeld fiddled around on his parents’ piano as a teenager, it was producer friends like Eli Nissan, Avi Darash and Nimrod Bar that coaxed the young Jerusalemite into the electronic fast lane at the ripe age of 15.
He recounts, “I started going out a lot in Jerusalem, then the boys got me really attracted to the idea of testing things on my own.”
The budding artist tried his hand at composing melodies, some of which continue to find a home in his current music. For instance, his latest release, “16Yo,” is based on a melody that he wrote as a 16-year-old.
Just after wading into the local waters, Rosenfeld earned his first residency at a popular underground dance bar in Jerusalem, aptly named The Bubble. The club had a ripple effect on his career, exposing him to a handful of Israeli promoters interested in bringing him to the big city.
Today, you’ll find Rosenfeld making his rounds in Tel Aviv, the Mecca of underground dance music, but the 31-year-old deep house artist owes his unique electronic approach to his years spent in the Jerusalem circuit.
“It was very, very different from Tel Aviv,” he says. “There was more of a Euro-trance feel to it,” a hybrid of hard trance and Eurodance music that includes more well-known, old-school DJs, like Armin van Buuren, who has played in every major Israeli city from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv to Eilat.
“It’s a legendary sound that no longer really exists,” says Rosenfeld. “It’s difficult to find a Euro-trance party anymore, but all of the music that I create and that my fellow producers create is based on this kind of sound, only today it’s much calmer and sexier.”
Add a few layers of Oriental influence – thanks to “growing up in a religious melting pot with different cultures and different kinds of music” – to his overall sound, and the seasoned artist truly exists in a melodic, hypnotic dreamland of his own.
“I’m in a good position now in Tel Aviv,” he shares. “As you can hear in Rumbala, my music strays from tradition. But I’m happy with that. It’s nice to be a bit different, to bring something else to the crowd. You know, they appreciate it. The following here in Israel is getting bigger and stronger, so I have to say that I’m happy with this: to be different in some way.”
WHEN CONCEPTUALIZING an EP, Rosenfeld stretches beyond the technical elements, reaching for something bigger: human connection.
First of all, rather than sprouting from a seed of a beat, his tracks are inspired by the time of season or his current feelings. He asks himself, “How do I feel? Sad? Happy? Motivated? Excited?” then vibes off of those emotions in the studio.
Secondly, Rumbala demonstrates its creator’s intrinsic desire to make human connections, not only with others but also with himself. The third track, “Internal Voices,” breaks from the melodic feel of the A-side for a deeper, more techy sound, layered with random human voices.
Their purpose? “To act as my internal voices, telling me not to only go with the obvious sound,” Rosenfeld answers, paying homage to his ongoing search for new ways to expand his repertoire. “It’s more about the groove and meant for smaller rooms, too,” he adds.
Finally, Rosenfeld is a man of hope, a breath of fresh air in our dubious world. He believes in ending all of his EPs and sets with what he calls “thank-you” songs. He closed his first EP with Lee Burridge and All Day I Dream in this manner, and Rumbala’s outro “Trip to Heaven” returns to this deeper, happier place, to “wade away our internal voices and end the day smiling. When I finish a set, I want people to remember me as a positive act, a positive person.”
The electronic artist cannot feel strongly enough about the power of music as a connective force. As he branches out into the international sphere, Rosenfeld carries this positive attitude with him, using the universal language of music to connect cultures that may not otherwise mesh.
“At the end of the day, we’re all the same. We have the same starting point,” he says. “The other day, I was watching one of my videos from a show in India and realized we are so different. I am Israeli, they are Indian. We are so far away culturally and religiously. But at the end of the day, I play my music and they love it. I wonder why? It’s not like they know me personally.”
He reflects on the idea that although they may have taken different paths in life, and made different decisions, the base of everything is the soul, which is pretty much the same worldwide.
Rosenfeld had a similar experience in Dubai, where he played his first big gig with All Day I Dream. Upon arrival through his European passport, since Israelis aren’t really allowed in the country, the Israeli DJ harnessed lifelong relationships with the event promoters: a man from Beirut and a woman from Kuwait.
“We are not in a good situation politically, but our love for music and for each other transcends that. It’s pure,” Rosenfeld smiles.
Ironically, in avoiding an outward political agenda, he has unconsciously created his own, using music to effect change: “Music is a religion in every way. Listening to it gathers everyone up, and they forget who they’re sitting next to. This is what’s so beautiful about music and any kind of art, for that matter. It has magical, magical powers.”