“It was always the kick that moved me”
The electronic musician Rona Geffen is part of an astonishingly fast growing posse in Berlin: Young Israeli moving to the German capital. They enjoy the city’s open-mindedness, they get inspired, they party hard – and they also visit the Holocaust Memorial which reminds that maybe their own ancestors were killed in this country because of being Jewish. Linus Volkmann asked Rona Geffen about how natural or special her everyday life feels here.
Rona Geffen participated in various crews bringing raves and underground parties to Tel Aviv, and is a graduate of „Muzik – School of Creation and Production“, majoring in musical production. While today Berlin based artist Rona Geffen is collaborating with international artists including Mad Professor & Yasmeen Goder and presented her work in venues, museums and various mixed media events worldcide. Geffen performes regularly around the world, but mostly in New York, Berlin, Amsterdam, London. On August 22nd she’s performing @ Together in Berlin – a festival for electronic music from Israeli artists. This will happen at Neue Heimat, Revaler Straße.
Since when do you live in Berlin?
I’ve been living in Berlin for the last 2 years.
Why did you choose Berlin over other possible cities in Europe or even … the world?
It was very important for me to live in a place where I have more opportunities with my art, I knew I wanted to move to a city where I can focus on music and have a good base to spread – not like Israel. Berlin is a great city with a vibrant music scene and people from all over the world to collaborate with, it was the most reasonable combination of a dynamic music scene, great open-minded vibe, relatively cheap living and also a pretty big Israeli community so I knew I could maintain aspects of my culture and speak Hebrew which is very important for me.
Did it work out for you here? What do you like – what do you dislike about Berlin?
I see it as a working progress, I’m very happy with my life in Berlin. Of course I had to establish a new network and that takes time and though I brought most of my studio with me some aspects of the comfort I had were gone but that’s all part of the process of building a life in a new place – so that’s cool. The only thing I might say I’m a bit disappointed with Berlin is the approach to new music, I feel a lot of clubs and bars are playing the same boring music a lot of the time and the crowd gets used to that and not expecting more. I think music should reflect the vibe of the time and a lot of what I hear has the tendency to reflect the past more than the future or even the present.
For an Israeli going to Germany … was that a tough decision regarding the past?
No, it really wasn’t. The people I interact with are not the same people who committed crimes against my people. I have no grunge for them. Also I must say I find the way Germany is dealing with its past, at least regarding the Jewish aspect which I know more of, is impressive. I can only hope Israel will apply the same approach regarding other narratives and human rights today.
The jewish community in Berlin grew fast the last years – is it as easy as it sounds for an Israeli living here in the multi-cultural melting pot or does it feel still special?
If you mean special regarding the holocaust – you know, I find myself coming to flats with attics or a basement and thinking “so here is where they had to hide” or seeing the golden memorial stones in the streets with the names – but we can’t live in the past. If today Germany is open for me why should I judge it by it’s past? I have more issues with Israel’s present.
Have you ever visited the holocaust memorial in Berlin – what was your impression?
I visited it a few years ago with my mom, I think it’s very impressive, touching and yet fun to be in. I thought it was a very special way of dealing with the holocaust – strongly representing the tragedy and yet embracing life in a unique way. I think that when art manages to capture an assence, transmit an emotion and even create history by its statement its very inspiring.
In the news and in the reality we see crowds of ugly Germans who want to throw out refugees or any other groups who aren’t German at all. Does this vibe affect you? Do you fear it?
It’s never nice to hear that you are not welcome but the way i see it now-days Germany is a pretty evolved country on these matters, so I’m not really worried it’s being controlled by extremists at this point. Also, as an Israeli what can I say? These voices are so loud in my country, both in the streets and by the government that I really can’t judge any other country going through this situation. I think that borders are becoming less and less relevant, with the internet and all, we’re becoming more and more of the global village that we are. Populations will shift more and more as people needs are changing, slowly but surely countries will just have to accept it and open up in order to survive. This will take some time but eventually it will be for the better of everyone. Migration has always boosted the economics and general state of countries and with today’s game change situation its becoming more and more inevitable.
Were you ever confronted with anti-semitism in Germany?
mmmm I don’t think so…
Israel has many faces and a variety of cultural streams – but did you ever have problems there for the explicit content in your clips or songs?
I know “Just Fuck Me” – the song and video – pissed off a lot of people, but that’s regardless of Israel, it’s a sexist patriarchy thing and that’s an issue worldwide. My dad, coming from a religious background, also really hates the reference to Tefillin (phylacteries) in the JFM video and art but that’s a statement I stand strongly behind and he has to deal with it. The political songs and tracks are usually misunderstood in Israel because of the electronic sound which people tend to disregard, thinking it can’t have “real” content. In the live shows however I feel the crowd understands the connection between the lyrics and the sound. But actually one of my latest projects, the electronic opera STRIKE! was very much supported in Israel which aloud us to release an album and a live show spectacle with in a few months. I composed the opera with Ann Streichman and Hilit Rozental, and it is a radical feminist telling of “Lysistrata” which takes place in a fictional present day Tel Aviv. So like you said, many faces…
“Together in Berlin” shows that there is a real movement for electronic music created by Israelis in Berlin – can you tell us a little bit how you are connect and where this is more than a group of individualistic musicians with just the same passport?
I find that the things that distinguish Israeli music is a combination of harshness and a kind of softness or better said sadness or glumness… On a daily basis we connect like people connect, on Facebook or having a beer. I can’t say I’m part of an “active group” of Israeli musicians in Berlin, rather you help each other out when you can and the communication is much faster.
What’s your personal approach onto electronic music? Who inspired you?
Usually I’m more inspired by people than their music, music I enjoy and feel but when I write and compose it’s from within. Music is my life and electronic music is my voice, it’s my form of story telling, I’m inspired by everyday life and sound. I started because I loved dancing in raves. The kick! It was always the kick that moved me, the bigger the better, when you are just lost in frequencies… it’s the best form of meditation. I always played acoustic instruments but only when I discovered electronic music I felt really inspired. Being a producer is like a huge playground or tool kit where anything you want to do is possible, you are not restricted to anything – even not to the electronic sound. I love it, it’s who I am.
What – and how – are you going to perform at the festival? Visuals, Live-Set, DJ-ing…?
My show is compiled by songs and tracks from my previous albums “Bilono” and “The Emancipation Of Mitzy” and a few new songs from my upcoming album “Blood Of My Blood (B.O.M.B.)”. My style can be described as a combination of Hard Techno, Downtempo & Pop and is driven by a lot of rhythm, heavy sound and intense vocals. It’s a live set with singing, live processing & sampling I do on computer and Korg’s crazy Kaoss family. It’s important for me to make everything cohesive – sound and visual art, a live show is a perfect opportunity to come in full colors. I also started recently working with the great VJ Kalma but unfortunately she won’t be joining me on this show.
Do you have in mind to reimmigrate to Israel once upon a time – or do you want to settle in Germany for longer?
I don’t see myself reimmigrating to Israel at this point. ‘Im happy in Berlin but eventually I think I will have to be in a place with a lot of sun and a sea. I consider myself a citizen of the world and the world is big, anything can happen.