Is it an exotic bird? Is it an alien? Is it a mythical, tempting siren that traveled from the underworld and landed smack-dab in the middle of Tel Aviv’s emerging and intriguing contemporary musical hub?
The answer to all of these questions is somewhere between yes, no, and all of the above.
Israeli artist and musician Carmel Michaeli, or as she prefers to be called on stage, Karma She, seems to refuse to condense her musical performance act to one definition, and she sure enjoys baffling concertgoers with her unique looks and deeply-layered, original beats.
Her fierce, unrelenting gaze, accented by Amy Winehouse-like thick eyeliner and a prominent, Marilyn Mansonesque blue contact lense covering one eye, has penetrated the souls of countless listeners who caught a glimpse of Karma’s raw and enthralling act in her music videos and live shows.
On the cusp of releasing her second EP, which she is currently recording in Berlin, Karma says she wants to create for her audiences “a very powerful and immersive experience that works on different senses – not only what you hear but what you see and how you feel. I reference different cultures through my dances and customs, through all the elements that we use in our pop show.”
Her new EP follows in the footsteps of the first (Spiritual Playgirl). The artist says that it “will include six tracks and, in terms of genre, it’s electro-pop with influences of rap, dance-soul, and UK garage.”
Karma, who had her own solo electronic act and crafted videos for the fine arts world prior to emerging as the gypsy queen of the eccentric Middle Eastern post-pop scene, studied visual arts both at Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design and at London’s Central Saint Martins. But the idea for her unique act evolved outside the academic world, when she spent two months exploring India as a tourist. “The trip was very inspiring to me,” she recalls, “and it’s there that I came up with the idea to create an alternative world for myself that would be driven by female, creative energy.”
“It’s about embracing your own feminine, sensual power rather than thinking that it’s something to be ashamed of. For me, it’s a new, feminist kind of spirit,” Karma continues.
And indeed, the unabashed female sexuality Karma brings to the stage is especially refreshing in an age when women, even in the arts world, are slammed for giving their libidos the limelight they so deserve.
“As a woman coming to my show, I would like you to feel strong, empowered, excited and happy. I’d like you to walk away with a strong sense of independence and freedom to be yourself and to be creative,” Karma stresses.
Another taboo the artist is breaking is of the sacred, not-to-be-touched religious symbolism. “In Israel, most people don’t dare to touch Jewish symbols in a new way.” Karma says her creation is an attempt to “mix together art and fashion and to exercise my own personal environment, which is Jewish mainly, and south Tel Aviv, which is where I work and live.”
Through her music, the artist reminds herself and others that it’s okay to let your imagination run wild, and that sometimes it can even serve as a cure to the existential ennui of the grinding routine.