Red-hot Riff

After performing for a 50,000-strong crowd at the Red Hot Chilli Peppers concert in Israel, Riff Cohen takes on the world.

Rif Cohen 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Rif Cohen 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Riff Cohen cuts a sprightly figure. Her Parisienne dancehall style has been turning heads since “A Paris” burst out onto the Web and the airwaves. Since then she has released two more tracks: “J’aime” and diva-esque “Rotza Prahim!” With the last two songs, it was obvious she had very much arrived on the Israeli music scene. Last Monday night at Hayarkon Park when she opened for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, her popularity was reinforced as she bounced onto the stage, gyrating to her signature rock-pop sound that has become her trademark.
There in front of a crowd of 50,000, Cohen made her mark as the throng received her with the warm enthusiasm of supportive friends.
What is it like to support the Red Hot Chili Peppers?
Wow! I think we have something in common although I don’t come from the same music genre as them. They play very heavy rock, but I think we have quite a similar energy because you can sometimes hear a very heavy rock-like sound in the Gnawa of North Africa.
THE SINGER was born in 1984 and raised in Tel Aviv, but grew up speaking Hebrew, French and English. Her parents were not musicians, yet they discerned her talent when she was young and nurtured it.
“My parents love music and had an art gallery, so I was in quite a Bohemian setting since I was very young.”
From the age of four she learned to play the piano but focused on drama in a Tel Aviv arts high school, where she was also infected with the music bug. She studied musicology at Tel Aviv University, which resulted in her acceptance to a three-year program in Paris that nurtures young artists. She wrote most of her current album, A Paris, next to her piano there.
Despite her youthful air and her joie de vivre, she is quite business savvy.
“I think it’s really hard today because people don’t buy albums anymore, yet in a strange way, you must produce an album if you want to succeed. So I realized quite late that I needed to create an album. For two or three years I went to a lot of music companies and the doors were open but no one signed me, so it took me a while to understand that I had to do it myself, and it is 100% indie. I think this is how it is, you need to do everything yourself.”
In this hi-tech world, the Internet has enabled many artists to do what they were previously unable to do without generous record-contract advances: explore. Globalization and the Internet hasn’t just affected written communication – it has enabled musicians to share music, software and even communicate in the global melting pot of 21st-century technology.
With all these influences pop isn’t just pop anymore, so how do you describe your music?
For mainstream people, I say that it is a melange of rock and Oriental music. This is quite a rough description though, because Oriental is a very broad term and can mean everything from Indian to Persian and more.
So is it “world music”?
It’s not world music, I would say it is minimalistic rock with influences from North Africa.
THE ALBUM has now been released here, with release dates scheduled for Europe, the UK and the US. Plans have been drawn up, agreements are being worked out but Cohen is tight-lipped about the details.
She was scheduled to perform at the Barby in Tel Aviv yesterday, but afterward she is heading to Paris to start filming more videos for her album – an all important marketing tool in the online, smart phone world.
“This is the premiere show after the album came out, the one the public has been waiting for as we haven’t played since last December,” she says of the Barby show.
It’s been quite a year for Cohen. Having started the year with only a show and a few singles, the kind of interest she has attracted since then is signaling great things to come. Add a celebrated album release, supporting a major international act in front of a crowd of 50,000 and a sell-out show at the Barby, and you have a recipe for success. And whether the ingredients are French or Israeli, you can be sure that whatever gets served up, it is very much Red Hot and definitely Riff Cohen.
Riff Cohen will play at the Tamar Festival in the Dead Sea on October 4 at 9 p.m. For more information: