Lesbian musician Efrat Kolberg explains why releasing a love song for a woman is a political statement in 2017, when she she faces lesbophobia – even on the street
My name is Efrat Kolberg. I’m a musician who currently lives in Tel Aviv. Not long ago I moved in with my girlfriend, which is crazy to me. It’s the first time I’ve agreed to settle down. She must really be something special. A year ago my first album came out and it had a lot of personal songs and social and political statements in it. I named the album “Don’t Talk About Politics”, because this is something I’m told all the time. The general feeling is that if you’re a musician it’s better not to get into it and not to say what you think at all, especially if you have something to say that might sound – God forbid- left wing.
I released a few music videos from that album, such as “Lo Ba Li” (‘I Don’t Feel Like It’) as a response to the ‘Jewish Home’ video against same-sex families, and “For You (Rent)” that was filmed in trashy rented apartments in Tel Aviv. I also released “Cashew”, a song that talks about not needing a relationship. Ironically, this song got me a lot of girls who came up to me or hit on me after its release. Apparently, not wanting a relationship is very attractive. My latest song is called “Bli Hazmana” (‘Uninvited’), and is accompanied by a moving video in collaboration with Neta Polak and Shay Ramot, amazing acrobatic and motion artists.
Because of the music I released earlier, I am often asked whether “Uninvited” is also a political video. It’s hard to answer that. On the one hand this song was created from a place of emotion and soul. The song and music video express emotions of love and an attempt to break free from it long after it was over. It is an emotion that almost all of us have experienced, and was created from a personal and private place of mine; I had a partner who I loved, and after the relationship ended it took me years to manage to break free. It’s a love song from a woman to a woman, and in the video the relationship is cultivated for movement and touch between two women.
However, the song could be also interpreted as political; in an era in which many countries are open to the idea of gay marriage, and the world already understands that same-sex is not a choice, not contagious nor threatening to the family institution or any other institution or person, it sometimes seems that we have a regression on this issue. In a place where the TV ads that speak about human rights and the rights of gays to get married are banned, and there are several political parties and rabbis who allow themselves to make harmful statements against the LGBT community, I think it is very important to continue to create all forms of art on the issue. My piece, which was created from a personal place but reflects a global emotion, turns in this country by its very existence into a political piece. In fact, I find myself a political creature in this country solely by my existence, whether I chose it or not.
Of course, it would have been much easier for me if I was born in an English speaking country, where I could just sing I LOVE YOU and no one would have known if I sang it for a woman or for a man. But Hebrew, as Yona Wallach once said, is a sex maniac language, language that doesn’t allow us to get away with that. The truth is that I once tried to take a song of mine and sing it to a man. I thought maybe it would help the song to be accepted more easily. But I just couldn’t do it. I sang it and I felt my every initial intention and feeling just disappear as soon as I decided to give up a little bit of myself in the song. I know there are singers who do it, who hide their sexual orientation and sing to men. Kudos to them, I don’t know how they do it. Apparently they find a way to connect to it anyway. Maybe I’m just taking it all too heavily and I give meaning to things, when in the end it’s all Show Business. I personally have no ability to hide, nor do I want to. We, the independent musicians, strive to create. Usually we have another work to make a living; we invest money in recordings, rehearsals and a lot of other things, so what’s the point of all this if the music is not genuine? I would like to express completely freely in my music and not take into account any social inhibition.
When the song “Lo Ba Li” was released on the radio, I was in a car with my mother, and I thought it was better to play the song for her now than let her hear it in a concert. I played the CD and we listened. My mother cried and it wasn’t easy for her. Overall, my whole coming – out story wasn’t easy for her. It’s possible that reading this column won’t be easy for her either. My parents are very liberal in their conception, logically; they are in favor of accepting everyone. But still they’ve had some sort of a fantasy about me, especially my mother. When I dated a girl for the first time, at a time when I still lived with my parents, whenever she was stay the night with me I would find my mother crying in the morning. It was really hard for her. But she got over it completely. Now she is the most supportive in the world, crazy about my girlfriend. She pressures us to have children, the usual, and I’m very proud of her.
I lived for five years in the Shapira neighborhood in Tel Aviv, a neighborhood with a traditional touch. Most of the time it’s fine, but once I went with my partner hand in hand down the street and someone shouted at us: “You have destroyed our neighborhood!”. I am amazed that this still happens in 2017, but I’m trying not to be upset by it. Besides, as long as I perform on stage, for me every expression of lesbophobia is being used in my favor and gives me more material to chat about while I’m on stage.