Arts & Entertainment
Love Across Borders
Israel-based Idan Raichel Project spreads its message April 27 at Music Hall.
Special to the Jewish News
orld music star Idan Raichel
takes inspiration from the
country he thinks of first as
a "melting pot" —Israel, not the United
Raichel, a composer-keyboardist-singer
who references the country of his birth,
brings entertainers of diverse back-
grounds into the Idan Raichel Project, a
band that reaches from eight people on
stage to 70 in the recording studio.
The group's international attention is
accelerating with the release of a name-
sake CD on the Cumbancha label, and
Detroit has become one of the tour desti-
nations reflecting its music.
The Idan Raichel Project appears 8 p.m.
Sunday, April 27, at the Music Hall Center
for the Performing Arts, where sounds of
the Mideast will mix with sounds from
America, Caribbean islands, Africa and
other locales, adding up to an overriding
message of love across borders.
"In Israel, in every neighborhood, you
can find people from all over:' Raichel,
31, told Beat magazine in Melbourne,
Australia. "You can explore and respect
the history of each neighbor. It came very
naturally that the Project was so diverse
because my friends all come from diverse
areas and have diverse backgrounds!'
That diversity has brought triple
platinum acclaim to the group's original
namesake CD. The follow-up album,
Mi'Maamakim ("Out of the Depths"),
struck gold two days after its release.
Jacob Edgar, who founded the world
music label with a Cuban name that trans-
lates into "impromptu party;' is behind the
second namesake CD that combines the
two earlier ones, produced in the past five
years. Edgar easily describes the concerts.
"The live show is a powerful experi-
ence he says. "Members of the group sit
in a semicircle on stage. Idan is off to the
side, and each artist gets a chance to shine.
Idan thought this embodied the collabora-
tive spirit of the Project. The songs range
from soft and beautiful to upbeat.
"The performers are all Israeli, even
though they have different cultural
backgrounds. Cabra Casey is a singer of
Ethiopian heritage who was born in a
refugee camp in Sudan during her parents'
Idan Raichel: "After four years, we're becoming a picture of the Israeli melting pot."
journey to Israel. Lital Gabai, another
singer, has parents who immigrated to
Israel from Iran just before she was born;
and she grew up in a Persian community.
Yaacov Segal, a guitarist as well as oud
player, has a Turkish background."
Raichel, whose family has Eastern
European roots, played the accordion as
a child and moved on to keyboards in
his teens. Military service gave him the
opportunity to entertain with a rock band
that toured bases around the country.
While working as a counselor for immi-
grants after the military, Raichel learned
Ethiopian music and added that to his
repertoire, honing in on distinctive per-
formance qualities. He went on to offer his
diverse musical knowledge as a backup
instrumentalist and recording session
player for some of Israel's most popular
As Raichel worked with others, he began
to develop recording ideas of his own and
set up a studio in his parents' basement in
Kfar Saba. More than 70 friends and col-
leagues were invited to participate.
The first hit single, "Bo'ee" ("Come With
Me"), created an interest for concerts.
"I wrote the songs; and I arranged
and produced them, but I perform them
together with other vocalists and musi-
cians," Raichel explains on his Web site,
idanraichelproject.com , where his style
can be previewed. "I think the fact that I
didn't have strong family musical roots is
what made me very open to music from
all over the world."
Raichel, who applies today's rhythms to
yesterday's musical traditions, relates his
approach to entertainment to his relation-
ships with entertainers representing dif-
Lyrics lead the way into the music.
Among the songs performed by his
group are "Siyaishaya Ingoma" ("Sing
Out for Love"),"Azini" ("Comfort Me"),
"Be'Yom Shabbat" ("On Sabbath") and
"Ayal-Ayale" ("The Handsome Hero").
Edgar describes Raichel as a spiritual
person with work that is not overtly reli-
gious. While the songs draw from Jewish
texts, the themes are more about the uni-
versal desire to love and be loved.
"I am intrigued by what the group
stands for, expressing cross-cultural col-
laborations and songs of peace and love in
a region usually marked by conflict," Edgar
"I also like the universal appeal of Idan's
music as it reaches out to people beyond
the usual world music public. Idan has a
gift for melody and a great sense of how to
create an appealing yet surprising song. As
a performer, he has an entrancing, engag-
Raichel, whose dreadlocks help sug-
gest the mood of the concerts, has told
Hadassah magazine about the causes he
supports through his talents. The enter-
tainer appeared in Africa for Save the
Heart of a Child, which brings third-world
children to Israel for cardiac surgery.
The composer-keyboardist-singer feels
"You just have to fix it in your mind
that if people ... say they love you, you
know you have to not get drunk from love
because it's obvious that it's something
very temporary, which can come and go:'
Raichel expressed to Hadassah.
"I had ... luck that people find them-
selves close to my music at this time, but
you know there are many examples of
great artists who didn't have the luck to be
beloved in their own lifetimes, so it's good
to keep it in proportion." ❑
The Idan Raichel Project performs 8
p.m. Sunday, April 27, at the Music
Hall Center for the Performing Arts,
350 Madison, in Detroit. $27-$47.
April 17 • 2008