The universal impact of Idan Raichel’s project [interview]

Israeli musician Idan Raichel is a keyboardist, producer and composer from Kfar Saba, a city near Tel Aviv. He is renowned for his collaboration with artists from all over the world. Within the framework of the «Idan Raichel project» he has managed to blend many different languages, traditional sounds and diverse cultures. Raichel is now joining forces with Greek singers Yiannis Kotsiras and Eleni Tsaligopoulou, in a concert due to take place tonight at Gazarte in central Athens.

Speaking on about «The Idan Raichel project», he said he had collaborated with more than 150 musicians and singers from all over the world during the last 12 years. «All musicians come from different parts of the world, from Ethiopia, Yemen, Morocco, Colombia. The youngest artist is 16 and the eldest are 83 and 91 years old. I write, compose and produce the music. Sometimes I sing, but most of the time, I am sharing the studio and the stage with amazing talents from all over the world. Although most people think of my music as “world music”, it has actually become “mainstream” in Israel. People love all the different languages, the variety, the differences between cultures and sounds».

Diverse music styles blend

Raichel was born in 1977 in a family with Eastern European roots. «I got influenced by variable music styles», he says, «from jazz to world music, from classical music to traditional music. I was playing the accordion, it was my first instrument. I think that this special instrument kept my ears and my eyes open to music from all over the world.».
Raichel soon became a successful backup musician and recording session player for some of Israel’s most popular singers. After a few years of helping others gain success and notoriety, he decided it was time to pursue a project that reflected his musical ideals. He invited over 70 of his friends and colleagues from Israel’s diverse music scene to participate in his recordings. A debut album, entitled, «The Idan Raichel project» was released in 2003 and it was immediately embraced by the people in Israel and the rest of the world.
The Project’s latest album, «Quarter to Six» was released in 2013 and it featured guest appearances by Portuguese fado star Ana Moura, Palestinian-Israeli singer Mira Awad, German counter-tenor Andreas Scholl, Colombia’s Marta Gómez, Vieux Farka Touré and a selection of some of Israel’s top up-and-coming singers and musicians. In just the first two months since its release, «Quarter to Six» reached double-platinum sales status in Israel, selling over 116,000 copies.
«I’ve worked with very famous musicians but also with new musicians», says Raichel. « It’s true that some musicians are considered “giants” not due to their fame, but mostly because of their soul and their generosity. It’s about them being very modest and humble and very talented. Sometimes famous people and ordinary people sit in the same studio and they share music. That’s the magic of the music: You see 150 musicians and singers from all over the world, playing just great music! My dream is to keep meeting amazing people!».

The Idan Raichel project meets Greek music

Raichel’s lyrics extend from Hebrew to Arabic, Amharic, Swahili, Spanish and Creole Portuguese. He is also planning to record songs in Greek, as well as incorporate elements of Greek folk music to his compositions: «I think the Greek language is beautiful. I have listened to a lot of Greek music in the Israeli radio since I was a child. In this trip to Athens, I’ll manage to conclude some new recordings… One of the my band’s greatest musicians plays bouzouki! We feel totally connected to your country, therefore we are looking forward to this concert. We feel that it is a great opportunity to share our music with the Greek audience».
His collaboration with Greek artists Yiannis Kotsiras and Eleni Tsaligopoulou emerged after a lot of research. «When I asked about Greece’s greatest musicians, my associates sent me many, many songs to listen to. I chose the two singers because I feel that together we can build a bridge between the two countries. I also feel very lucky that they agreed to perform with us…. I consider it  a miracle that people come to listen to our music, from all over the word. I am so grateful to the people that organize the concerts and the people that attend our concerts. I want them to be able to remember our music for many days, weeks and months after».
You can get more information on the concert here.

Interview conducted by Eleftheria Pantziou

PHOTO: Yeara Livny