Israeli musician Riff Cohen receives “big, huge hug” from Turkish fans
By: Nick Lieber – Editorial Associate and Analyst, Creative Community For Peace
It’s no secret that Israel and Turkey aren’t exactly friends right now. After several years of rising tensions, relations are as bad as they’ve ever been between the two countries. But according to Israeli musician Riff Cohen, there’s no indication of this in the music scene.
“When I went [to Turkey] I felt such a big, huge hug,” Riff told Creative Community For Peace (CCFP), an organization representing prominent members of the entertainment industry dedicated to promoting the arts as a means to peace and to countering the cultural boycott of Israel.
Riff is well known for her musical fusion, blending together modern and traditional elements to make unique and fascinating sounds. With familial roots in France and North Africa, she sings in French, Hebrew, and Arabic, putting her mother’s poetry to her music.
This mashing together of modernity and tradition, of different cultures and languages, is something Riff believes people in the region can’t help but understand. It’s something the various peoples in the region have in common. But she didn’t fully realize that until she performed in Turkey.
“When I went to Turkey the first time, it helped me understand Israel much better. There are so many common things. It’s nothing about Judaism…just the fact that we are in the Middle East.”
It’s not just that people are loud (“[Before] I had even gotten on stage, people screamed like crazy,” Riff said), or brusque, or any other stereotype commonly applied to Middle Easterners, but that the different peoples in the region are split between the influence of the modern world and their ancient religions and cultures. Some might say these things are incompatible, like the elements of Riff’s music.
“I feel that they’re like my cultural brothers,” she said of the Turks. “I feel they really understand my musical style, of mixing things together that can’t go together.”
Demonstrating the great ability of music to transcend borders and politics, there were even fans from Iran who traveled to Turkey to attend Riff’s show. And yet, nobody said a word about politics, she said. “Even the interviews were really respectful and very artistic. Nothing about politics.”
Her song “Dans Mon Quartier” was a #1 song in Turkey and, despite being released years ago is still at #11.