Homegrown Diva – My Time Out Interview with Shefita
The controversial – and hilarious – singer and persona talks Radiohead, what’s in her purse, and her love for the haters. Read my latest interview in Time Out Israel’s fresh new issue.
Rotem Shefy is a delicate mix of Yemenite and European Jewish ancestors , but her stage persona – Shefita – was born in Dubai. Some have called her out for mocking Arab culture, while others praise her for paying tribute to her roots, but one things is for sure: everyone knows about her, and everyone has an opinion. Here, she lets us into her crazy-fun world of giving her signature spin to rock songs by the likes of Nirvana, Aerosmith, and a whole lot more.
Tell me a bit about how the Shefita personality was born – you clearly have an incredible musical talent, and acting skills, but how did you bring together the Arabic accent and covering famous rock songs?
I was born with this accent, but grew up listening to rock music, so for me it just feels so natural to sing and perform like this. Dubai is a big part of me, even though I haven’t lived there for many years.
What does it mean for you as an artist and as a person – even as a child growing up in Israel – to be put in the box of “not being Arab enough” for some, while for others you’re way “too Levantine”?
People are just looking for a reason to be offended. My act brings the real Shefita in the most oriental way: I’m putting the spotlight on Arab and Western music, giving the lyrics a new meaning, empowering women, having a good laugh about everything, and mostly enjoying myself.
You have a history with talent shows and TV series showcasing talents competing against each other. How do you feel about artists being measured through a competition?
I enjoyed being on the “Next Star” so much, but I already had a great career before the show; I had performed many times with my music show that I produced, had nine music video clips, had a commercial on TV… so for me, it was a boost and a way to enlarge my audience – and to get more famous, obviously. I don’t mind the competition at all. If you know who you are as an artist, and you know what you have to offer, then you won’t feel intimidated by anyone and you can only grow, or – worse case – just go back to the same point you were before.
Your persona is sexual, funny, artistic, and playful at the same time. Do you let stylists dress you or do you have a mind of your own?
Just like the music, I choose everything! my dresses, jewelry, shoes, and, of course, my canes – which I make personally.
I know how happy you were when Alanis Morissette found out about your cover and commented “beautiful” on Twitter – is there other feedback from artists whose songs you covered which we may not have heard?
Yes, I know Radiohead heard our cover version to Karma Police. We never got official feedback but we know from relatives that they really liked it.
If you could pick an international musician to work with, who would it be?
My first choice is Radiohead. I think we can make some crazy stuff together. Besides them, I think Justin Timberlake and I could be a great match. If not for a music collaboration, then he can be my lover any time! Give him my phone number, please.
Or you give him mine – whoever meets him first! What is the next project you are working on? I know about the big gig for June…
That’s right, honey! Shefita is coming back on stage with a great band and a new show, produced by Dekel Dvir. We have been working for a couple months and I’m super excited. The first date was sold out so fast that we opened another one for the next day. Besides that I’m working on something big but it’s a surprise…
Do you have a favorite bar in the city? If one wants to grab you for a dance, where can you be found?
Herzl 16 is super cool.
Who’s an Israeli musician everyone should listen to?
I love Lola Marsh, but if you’re looking for an Israeli artist singing in the Hebrew language, you should listen to Eviatar Banai… he is our version of Thom Yorke.
Tell me three random things you carry in your purse…
Phone, credit card, and tweezers (If I find a naughty chin hair).
Is it easier or more difficult to find love once someone is so popular, as you’ve become?
I guess it could be difficult for some people, but for me it’s easy. There’s enough Shefita for everyone, and I can feel the endless love from so many people towards me, and I accept it with open arms! I also accept the hate, ‘cause haters are cute and make me laugh – so I’m kinda enjoying it, too.