Entertainment » Music

Idan Raichel :: Busker to World Music Star

by Lewis Whittington
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Oct 21, 2013

Israeli singer-composer Idan Raichel emerged from the street music scene in Tel Aviv a decade ago to become one of the hottest acts in world music genres. His top selling albums led to his ambitious tours called Idan Raichel Project, an ongoing international collaboration with 100 musicians (& counting) to deliver the message of mixing genres and multi-cultural voices. The concerts have been performed everywhere from Central Park to the White House, and even at the Nobel Prize award ceremony,

"The Idan Raichel Project was created as a musical journey to record musicians who came from all over the world to Tel Aviv," he explained to EDGE recently while waiting in an airport.

Currently he is on a US tour with ten musicians and four vocalists performing songs from his latest release, 'Quarter to Six.'

"This album took several years to record and mixes ballads with pulsing dance tracks, to represent his collaborations with artists of multiple generations, ethnicities, and languages," he explained.

But the question became, just where in the US was Idan and where was he going? At first, he wasn’t quite sure.

"Where are we?" he asked a companion at the start of the phone interview. "We are in Denver... for a concert," he said with a laugh when told. "Then we are heading to Miami."

Raichel, who writes most of his songs in Hebrew, reflects on metaphysical themes on his latest album, including how to find peace at the end of life.

In addition to singing and composing "Quarter to Six," Raichel did the string arrangements on the album which evoke the style of classical music, despite his not having any classical training. He did, though, study piano "when I was 17; but I think it was all the sounds of world music that attracted me to these arrangements. From acoustic to classical, from classical to contemporary flavors," he explained.

But the piano wasn’t the instrument with which he started his musical training.

"My first was the accordion, which was very uncool," he explained.

That the instrument is making a comeback gratifies him, but he’s not surprised. "It has a very worldly sound, from the tangos of Argentina to the Waltzes of Vienna to the gypsy music of Bulgaria and of course the Israeli folk music," he observes.

The album features performances by Portuguese fado star Ana Moura, Palestinian-Israeli singer Mira Awad, Colombia’s Marta Gómez, Vieux Farka Touré and a selection of some of Israel’s top up-and-coming singers and musicians.

The album even includes a track in German, sung by Andreas Scholl, "In Israel we are still forbidden to play Wagner, you know, still, because of the history of Nazis playing Wagner’s music. This is the first time there has been a German song to mainstream radio Israel, so it breaks a taboo."

His goal is for his sound to be branded as coming from the country where he lives.

"I want this to be seen as Israeli music, in the way that Edith Piaf did with French music and she became the soundtrack of Paris or Mercedes Sosa music in South America, so the biggest compliment is when people hear this as original Israeli music."

The Times London wrote that the Idan Raichel Project was "an ambitious celebration of multicultural diversity... an ambient journey that thrillingly bridges the traditional and modern."

The formula has worked. The Idan Raichel Project has had 16 number one hits on the world music charts and fulfills Raichel objective he said to "bring the voices of minorities there to mainstream radio... the multicultural sounds of Israel. We are really totally amazed on this US tour. We are singing in our own native languages - from African languages, Hebrew, Spanish, Arabic, or French and to see thousands of people enthusiastic for this sound... make us feel so welcome here. We never even meant to play this music outside of Israel, so I can’t even say it’s a dream come true.,"

The Idan Raichel Project tour is also part of the Daniel Pearl World Music Days events. Pearl was the American/Israeli journalist who was kidnapped and murdered in 2002 by Al-Qaeda in Pakistan. Many don’t know that he was also a violinist. The event honors his musical spirit and promote tolerance in memory of Pearl. The organization’s mission is to promote cross-cultural understanding through journalism, music, and innovative communications.

For a free preview of Quarter to Six download link the email address IRPgift@gmail.com

The Idan Raichel Project concert performance is October 24, 8pm at The Merriam Theater, Philadelphia, go to www.kimmelcenter.org for ticket information. For a full list of the remaining dates on the tour, visit this website.

Watch this YouTube clip about The Idan Raichel Project:

Lewis Whittington writes about the performing arts and gay politics for several publications.


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