Welcome to the first installment of Fresh Face Friday, where I highlight emerging artists, thinkers, and innovators whose work promotes wholehearted, holistic, positive, and creative living. So exciting! I will get to share with you some of my favorite world artists, interesting thinkers, and all around awesome people.
I love The Idan Raichel Project (IRP) and I am so grateful for having discovered them. Combining music from Israel, Africa, The Middle East and many other places, IRP weaves magic with their musical talent. I missed the chance to experience them live, but every time I need a soulful reminder of the mystical nature of life I simply play “הפרויקט של עידן רייכל – ממעמקים” (the first video posted). Now, I may not understand the languages spoken, but I know the message it communicates. That is the power of music, it reaches beyond race, religion, language…all boundaries and speaks to the divine soul that you have and always be. It unifies us and amplifies our universal oneness. High praise for soul stirring music.
Here is an interesting piece of information from Wikipedia: “Following his military service, Raichel became a counselor at a boarding school for immigrants. The school was attended by many young Ethiopian Jews, who introduced him to Ethiopian folk and pop music. Whilst many of people in the school rejected their own cultural traditions in an effort to assimilate into mainstream Israeli society, a small core of teenagers remained fans of Ethiopian music, passing around cassettes of songs by Mahmoud Ahmed, Aster Aweke and Gigi. After hearing them, Raichel began to frequently attend Ethiopian bars and clubs in Tel Aviv.“
Idan Raichel and his Project are one of a kind, a glorious example of what we all can become when we open our hearts, our minds, and share our talents with the world. Being a light in an often frightening world.
Below the videos is a great article on Idan Raichel from The New York Times. Here is another article on Idan Raichel http://www.hispanicbusiness.com/2013/10/18/idan_raichel_s_notes_of_diversity.htm.
What artists, thinkers, and innovators would you like to see featured? Share in the comments below.
I sincerely hope that this music starts your weekend off right. Many blessings.
June 23, 2011
Israeli Singer of the World
By RAPHAEL MINDER
MADRID — Idan Raichel, who was recently voted Israel’s musician of the decade in polls conducted by Israeli news media, is no ordinary ambassador for his country.
Tucking into a piece of bacon during a breakfast interview, he explained: “Instead of kosher, I prefer to keep it tasty.”
Mr. Raichel might not conform, but his views have never veered toward disrespect. He said that he admires Orthodox Jews — even those who have criticized him for using religious texts to compose his lyrics.
“I use the Bible because all the most important and beautiful things have already been said, so that the best that I can probably do is repeat them,” he said. “There is simply no greater love song than what you find in the Book of Psalms.”
Mr. Raichel’s music, however, goes well beyond repurposing ancient verses.
Since the release of his debut album “The Idan Raichel Project” in January 2003, he has worked with about 100 different musicians and singers to fuse traditional Middle Eastern instruments with electronic sounds, and to combine Jewish music with that of regions ranging from West Africa to Latin America and India. And while Hebrew dominates his lyrics, his songs are peppered with languages including Arabic, Amharic, Swahili, Spanish and Creole Portuguese. His first album was a commercial success, selling 200,000 copies.
Mr. Raichel calls himself a “very proud Israeli” but, as with his music, his physical appearance makes it hard to place him on the map. He has long dreadlocks, held together in a black turban, which, he said, he has grown “just for fashion” rather than in homage to the Rastafari movement. His flowing shirt and baggy trousers make him look like a desert Bedouin, but they are tailor-made by Sasson Kedem, an Israeli fashion designer. A traditional hamsa pendant never leaves his neck.
In both music and fashion, Mr. Raichel reflects a blend that fits his hopes for a more open society, particularly within the fractured Middle East. While he insists that his aspirations are purely musical and not political, he seemed happy to be drawn into discussing some sensitive political issues. One of his dreams, he said, would be for Israelis to consider one day electing a non-Jewish leader.
“I believe that everything is possible, even if it will probably take two more generations for Israel to be ready for this,” he said. “What matters to me is not so much whether there actually is ever a non-Jewish prime minister, but whether Israeli society can reach the point where there is no fear at such a thought.”
Mr. Raichel’s own sphere of influence is music, which, he said, has to be kept “absolutely open to everybody.”
In some cases he has worked alongside musicians with whom he has little in common in terms of political and social views.
“Acceptance is the ability to live with somebody with whom you cannot in fact agree on a single thing,” he said.
Mr. Raichel’s call for tolerance comes hand-in-hand with a belief in duty to his country. He recently ruffled feathers among Israel’s artists by saying that he could not call Israeli anyone who dodged military service by faking medical problems.
“I got attacked by musicians and others who believe that serving in the army should be a matter of choice,” he said. “But I believe that if you want more choice, you need to work to change the law rather than lie about your health.”
Mr. Raichel, who is 33, grew up in a secular family in Kfar Saba, a small town outside Tel Aviv, but with several Orthodox Yemenite families living on the other side of the street.
His interest in other cultures, however, was only genuinely aroused after he completed his military service, when he taught music in a school filled with immigrants from Ethiopia. Working with children there highlighted for him the stunning ethnic diversity within Israeli society.
Mr. Raichel was in Madrid to attend a Jewish film festival this month at which “Black Over White,” a documentary by Tomer Heymann, was shown. The film follows Mr. Raichel as he persuades some Ethiopian-born Israeli singers to return to their native country for a concert in Addis Ababa in 2006.
The documentary highlights the racism in Israel faced by some African immigrants, but Mr. Raichel said that to reduce the issue to clear-cut terms was too simplistic.
“It makes great headlines to talk about racism in Israel or the clash between black and white,” he said. “But you really need to go a lot deeper than that to understand the problems. Racism is a completely human reaction when you lack knowledge. Those who teach racism are bad people, but not those who don’t have sufficient education to understand what they are hearing.
“It is only in the past few years that I have learned to understand that the people who surround Israel are our neighbors,” he continued, “because that is not how it was taught to me at school. May be we can’t trust them yet, but they’re still our neighbors before being our enemies.”
Mr. Raichel performed at the Nobel Peace Prize concert in Oslo in December, alongside the American soul singer India.Arie, and in Madrid this month appeared in the Suma Flamenca music festival, playing alongside a flamenco artist, Diego Guerrero — a collaboration that he suggested could yield another album recording.
Like Mr. Raichel, Mr. Guerrero, who is Spanish, is known for blending genres, fusing Afro-Cuban and other types of music into traditional flamenco.
Mr. Raichel, whose piano was placed to the side of the stage, restricted himself to a few words of greeting. Mr. Guerrero took a more vocal approach, opening the concert with a tirade against the recent mismanagement of Spain’s economy and demanding an overhaul.
Nowadays Mr. Raichel spends most of his time at a piano or on an electronic keyboard. As a child, he was first taught the accordion, because his mother played it.
“This was painful because where I come from, the accordion is simply the most uncool instrument ever,” he said. “But I will always be grateful for her choice because there is no better instrument to open your ears to the music of the world.”
Mr. Raichel has a full calendar of concerts worldwide in the coming months, including dates this summer in Europe and the United States. Later this year he will release an album with India.Arie called “Open Door,” and he’s at work on an album with the Malian musician Vieux Farka Touré. Beyond that Mr. Raichel is not keen to plan for the long term.
“I live in the Middle East, a region where things can change in an instant, where you can be at peace with Egypt one day, then wake up to find that the regime there has gone and nothing can be taken for granted anymore,” he said. “So it seems to me that living the present is a lot more important than planning the future.”