Updated: Mar 29, 2020
Welcome to FEDBytes! We’re here, everyone’s in their own home, we’re safe, we’re also connecting -- because community is so important, especially these days. We’re excited to be here with a special guest, NAÖR Cohen. The idea behind the series is that every time we will have a different guest, to get to know someone in your virtual neighborhood. I hope just by learning about other people and what it’s like to be someone else, it will build our sense of empathy and ability to support one another in these times.
I’d love for us to get to know NAÖR a little bit. Naor, where’d you come from and what’s your story?
Nice to meet you. My name is NAÖR Cohen. I’m 29 years old, half Iraqi, half Polish. I grew up in Gan Yavneh, next to Ashdod, in Israel. I was born in Ramat Gan. I’ve lived in NYC about a year and a half. Israel is a very warm place. You can experience a lot of amazing places. You have Jerusalem, a very spiritual place, very deep. You have Eilat, and you have the Dead Sea. In that small place called Israel, you have everything.
I know music is a major passion in your life. How did you find that passion and what led you to your current path in life?
I was born to a family of musicians, my mother’s a singer. In my more distant family, there are more musicians. So I grew up to see the stage and be around it from when I was very young. My first experience on the stage was when I was 11 years old. It was a big show in Gan Yavneh, and I sang, and I was like, “That’s what I want to do!” From when I was 16, I started to tour professionally, in Europe and Russia. Music is love, and that’s what we’re here for.
I’ve heard you talk about love, it’s very inspiring actually. Tell us more about love and how you live it out on a daily basis.
We have more power through love, power to feel in love, to share love. You can grow. I call it love, you can call it the spirit, or prayers. I grew up on gospel music, I’m very into church, and that spirit of music. Love is exactly the thing that brings us together. If I have a song and I want to sing it, I’m doing it by myself, but if I have harmony, it plays with me. Love is what makes me wake up in the morning and create more, and to use that feeling to inspire myself and inspire others through music. Love.
I think in these times we all need to lighten up a little to do something funny, silly or outside our comfort zone. What’s a story that’s funny or unbelievable that you can share with us?
I told you about that show I did when I was 11 years old in Gan Yavneh. I remember all the lights in front of my eyes. All the people. I was very young. I came down on the steps to prepare myself for the final song. That kid, that guy, came to me and punched my eye. At the moment that I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life, I get punched in the eye. Why? Because I got that song to sing, or something like that. It doesn’t matter. The unbelievable thing is when I saw my path, how I can make myself better, to feel like a cure, like a medicine -- that’s when I got punched. I didn't even have time to think about it. It’s a big lesson to be reminded that it’s not easy, and not everything is smooth. In one of my songs, I say, “Everything you’re looking for will find you.” I’m a believer, not just a giver, and it will be fine. We’re prepared. Amen.
I know you’re not a native to NYC. Tell us a story that’s very NYC to you.
I live in Spanish Harlem. There’s very good energies here, good food. As I said, I grew up on jazz and gospel music. Around the corner here, I have my church. Though I’m Jewish and I put on tefillin, I’m going to church sometimes on Sundays, to listen, to create, to learn, to get the spirit. Because at the end of the story, you can call it God, you can call it anything you want, you can call it energy or stone. But if you’re a believer, we have the same thing we can start from. So I’m having fun going to church here on Sundays. There’s a lot of colors in NYC and a lot of musicians, which makes it more interesting. Harmony is powerful when we are doing something together.
A small story about NYC and food. I got here and I was alone, I went to go shopping at Costco and fill my kitchen. I love to cook. It was Friday night and I decided I wanted to cook for the neighbors, why not? It was after the first two days I was here. I made rice, nice things. I went to the neighbors upstairs and downstairs, to see if someone would join me, please, you’re welcome, come to my house! Everyone thought I was crazy. They looked at me like, “Who do you think you are, to invite us?” That’s the vibe I got when I just went to say hello. That’s been my NYC experience from the beginning.
Speaking of food, you mentioned to me that you really love Israeli breakfast. What is that, and why?
First of all, Israeli breakfast is for me the best food ever. When I was young, I was traveling and touring, in hotels, sometimes in Russia, and I don’t eat everything. For me it was eggs, tomato, salad, bread probably, tahini, hummus or cheese, orange juice. This for me was the best, what I needed. I don’t eat more than that. In Israel, there’s that place called Benedict, with 24 hours breakfast. I had that card with so many points on it to get free things, because I was there very consistently.
I feel like you can’t be Israeli without having some story about shakshuka in particular. What’s your shakshuka story?
For me it’s about the cumin and tumeric. It’s like love. I love to use those spices, maybe because of the Iraqi side of me, whether it's rice, meat, chicken, or shakshuka. I’m a spices lover. In Jaffa you have that famous place where they make shakshuka. To tell you a story about shakshuka, I did teach a few people here to make shakshuka, friends of mine from New Orleans and NYC. I was like, "I’m cooking, come, I’ll make shakshuka," and they were like, “Oh, that thing with the eggs and tomatoes? I’m down, I’m coming!”
Finally, tell us more about your music!
It’s spiritual music. I love to talk about the good things, though I do mention how it was bad. In the end I’m trying to help myself feel better, and I want the same thing for you. It’s very funky, gospel and jazz. I don’t categorize myself. I do soul music that comes from my heart. I had a show that was supposed to be on March 26 at the Bitter End. We just rescheduled it to May 7. So I’ll keep performing. This year was amazing, I did shows at the Friars Club with a big band, it was on for almost a year. I did Fashion Week. Good stuff, I’m thankful. Music is the wheel that lets me keep going, to create and do. Recording and performing. Soon I'll be releasing new music. Stay tuned! You can also check out http://naorcofficial.com.
For the full recording, please listen here!