Kobi Marimi will represent Israel at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv with his song “Home”. It’s a stirring emotional ballad, and Kobi will be hoping to avoid the fate of last year’s hosts Portugal, who finished in last place.
Israeli broadcaster KAN selected Kobi in collaboration with the commercial network Keshet. The singer was chosen through the reality TV show The Next Star for Eurovision. The series ran from November to February and saw 105 auditionees eventually become one. While Kobi was the public’s choice, “Home” was selected behind closed doors. The formula has worked well for Israel, securing them four consecutive qualifications since 2015.
As we’re getting closer to the contest in Tel Aviv, we’ve compiled 10 facts about Kobi Marimi. Let’s do this!
1. He has a rich heritage
According to local media, Marimi is not a common name in Israel. In fact, it can be traced back to Jews who emigrated from Iraq. Fast forward to 2019, and the Marimis operate a grocery store, or at least his parents do. His sisters work in copywriting and culinary arts.
2. He served in the army
Israel is one of only a few countries which still practices conscription. All Israeli citizens over the age of 18 who are Jewish, Druze, or Circassian are required to undertake military service. Sure enough, Kobi served his time, joining the Adjutant Corps of the Israel Defence Forces. He applied for the military band but was rejected — their loss!
3. He’s an actor
Before singing, Kobi was an actor. He studied at the Nissan Nativ acting studio, but only got in on his second attempt. While learning the trade, he appeared in plays including The Caucasian Chalk Circle, The Illusion, and Prayer. After graduation, he performed in Every Living Thing Needs and Chambaloo’s Treasure. He also appeared as Natan in the musical Messiah Now. The role won him the Promising Actor Award at Israel’s 2017 Musical Celebrations.
4. He can do opera
Australia’s Kate Miller-Heidke won’t be the only one capable of belting out operatic notes in Tel Aviv next month. Last year, Kobi took part in a Hebrew production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. The show is tailored specifically for child audiences and the plot features a prince, a princess, a bird catcher and a queen of the night. The next performance is scheduled for July. However, Kobi does not define himself as an opera singer.
5. He has a colourful CV
In order to fund his studies, Kobi undertook a whole range of side jobs. Whatever job you need done, chances are Kobi is your man. Need someone to watch the kids? He’s worked at a nursery. Fancy some dessert? He was employed by an ice cream shop. Prefer something stronger? He was a host at a cocktail bar. Need a movie recommendation? He was a cinema cashier.
6. He wasn’t a professional singer
Despite roles in musicals and operas, Kobi wasn’t a professional singer in the true sense of the world. He had never released music or performed any gigs. With acting roles difficult to come by — he had two auditions in the last year — Marimi decided to enter Israel’s Eurovision selection. He says, “going to The Next Star was the most courageous thing I did”.
7. He was eliminated during the national selection
At one point, we all thought Kobi was out of the race for Eurovision. He had reached Heat 4 and the final nine when he was eliminated. However, he received a lifeline. Just before the fourth semi, producers organised a wildcard show. Kobi performed Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” and won back his place in the competition. The rest is history.
8. The Eurovision divas love him
During his time on The Next Star, he proved to be a darling with the Eurovision divas. Last year’s winner Netta declared him her favourite — “the fact that she loved my music, it really moved me” — while his cover of “Fuego” almost certainly won over Eleni Foureira. The trend extended to the show’s judging panel, with Eurovision 2005’s Shiri Maimon only downvoting him once in the entire process. Eurovision 2010 alum Harel Skaat’s love was a little less consistent. He downvoted Kobi on more than one occasion, including during the crucial wildcard round. Since his victory, Marimi has also hung out with the 1998 winner Dana International.
9. He had a weight loss transformation
When Kobi was younger, he was extremely overweight. At 16, he weighed 140 kilogrammes (more than 22 stone). He shed the pounds during his military service, losing about 50 kilogrammes in total (almost eight stone). Kobi attributes his weight loss to exercise and diet. But he did it all healthily. He doesn’t starve himself — “I eat what I want, but in doses, I can tell myself when to stop”. Speaking of his younger self, Kobi says “When I look at pictures from the past, it’s a nightmare for me, not because I’m ashamed or disgusted, it does not embarrass me, but it makes me sad to look at this boy’s eyes. I want to hug the boy and tell him that everything is good, right now, that it will not be all right in the future, I want to go back and be my best friend”.
10. He has a celebrity look alike
You don’t need the MyHeritage app to see that Kobi bears an uncanny resemblance to the late Freddie Mercury. And the comparisons aren’t just visual. During his time on The Next Star, judges regularly compared his vocals with the former Queen frontman. Apparently, rumours abounded that Kobi could be Freddie reincarnated. Alas, even if you believe in such things, it would not be possible since Kobi was born over a month and a half before Mercury’s death.
Are you connecting with “Home”? Can Kobi impress on home soil? Sound off in the comments below.