Idan Raichel (Hebrew: עידן רייכל, IPA: ʔiˈdan ˈʁaiχel; b. September 12, 1977) is an Israeli singer-songwriter and a musician, known for his Idan Raichel Project (Hebrew: הפרוייקט של עידן רייכל), distinctive for its fusion of electronics, traditional Hebrew texts, Arab and Ethiopian music. Prior to the Project, Raichel was a keyboardist, collaborating with artists such as Ivri Lider.
Idan Raichel is a keyboardist, producer and composer who was born in Kfar Saba, Israel, a city near Tel Aviv. Idan was born in 1977 and grew up fascinated by the world of music. Raichel began to play the accordion at the age of nine. He was attracted to long hair, gypsy music and tango, and studied jazz piano in high school, which improved his improvisational skills and ability to collaborate with other musicians.
Raichel served in the Israel Defense Forces army band at the age of 18. It was at this point in Raichel's life that music would become an essential part of his life. Raichel began touring military bases performing covers of Israeli and Western pop hits. As the musical director of the group, he became adept at arrangements and producing live shows.
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 became a very successful backup musician and recorded with popular singers of Israel. Idan decided to pursue his own musical projects and career once he helped other artists gain attention. He began working on a demo recording back home in Kfar Saba. Idan liked to work with other artists, so he asked different talents to participate in order to create a euphoria of varied sounds and styles.
Due to Israel's open acceptance of returnees from the Jewish diaspora, Israel is home to people of Eastern European (Ashkenazi), Middle Eastern (Mizrahi), Mediterranean (Sephardi), and Latin American (Sephardi) descent. This diversity interested Idan and influenced him to learn about cultures through his musical talents. Yemenite Jews who lived on the southern border of the Arabian Peninsula indicate a long history of traditions through their music. Israel's Sephardic community integrates traditions of Spain, North Africa, and the Mediterranean. The Ashkenazi Jews, who constitute most of the population in Israel, mostly returned to Israel from Russia and Eastern Europe. There are over 85,000 Ethiopian Jews who recently migrated to Israel in effort to naturalize the "lost tribe of Israel". There is also a large Arab community, making up about 20% of the population of Israel.
Idan invited over 70 friends of diverse backgrounds to participate in his musical projects. He created his first album and looked for a label to help him produce a full album. Helicon Records was among the few who thought Idan had much potential and they signed him on the roster; many Israeli labels considered Idan's work too "ethnic", or far different from the Israeli pop scene. However, Idan's album turned out to be a huge hit.
The global fusion sound of "Bo'ee" ("Come With Me") that once sounded so unusual has become the hit that propelled the Idan Raichel Project to the top of Israel pop charts and turned Idan Raichel into a well known name across his native land. The Idan Raichel Project has illuminated their name and fame across the world for their ambitious cross-cultural collaborations that changed Israeli music forever more.
Idan's fan base began to grow as the demand for his live performances increased. Idan was honored to play at the Opera House of Tel Aviv. He selected a limited number of the performers he works with as it would have been difficult to have everyone appear on stage.
Over the years, Idan's collaboration with artists has brought about stars Cabra Casey, a singer of Ethiopian heritage born in a refugee camp in Sudan who made the difficult journey to Israel, Ravid Kahalani, who comes from the band Yemen Blues and explores his Yemenite roots, and drummer Gilad Shmueli, a producer of Israeli artists who have played a key role in developing The Project. The Project also brought attention to the legend singer, Shoshana Damari, who is a Yemenite-Israeli performer. She performed with the group just before she died in 2006 at the age of 86. From working with so many artists of all different backgrounds led to decision to name the collective the "Idan Raichel Project." Idan arranged the songs and produced them, but he has performed them and worked with 95 different talents coming from dozens of different countries and cultures; therefore, they are not a distinct group, but something in between.
The Idan Raichel Project has released 4 albums as well as a collection of live recordings in Israel on the Helicon Label. Cumbancha, a US based record label, released the groups first to albums worldwide in 2006, bringing much attention to this inspirational collective. The album also received a nomination as one of the world music albums of the year by the BBC Radio 3 Award for World Music.
The Idan Raichel Project released their second international release "Within My Walls" in 2009; Idan recorded much of this album while he was on tour in impromptu settings. During Idan's travels, he met with musicians from around the world and exchanged musical ideas with them along the way. He recorded and co-wrote songs with Colombian singer Marta Gómez, Cape Verdean Mayra Andrade and Rwandan/Ugandan Somi.
The Idan Raichel Project's live performance has left audiences in awe worldwide. The group has headlined at spectacular venues, like New York's Central Park Summer Stage, Apollo Theater, Town Hall and Radio City Music Hall, Los Angeles' Kodak Theater, the Sydney Opera House, Zenith and Bataclan in Paris, London's Royal Albert Hall, and countless more international festivals. The group has traveled to and performed across Europe, South and Central America, Hong Kong, India, Ethiopia, South Africa, Ghana and more.
Raichel has been had the opportunity to become involved in many side projects over the course of his music career. He had a chance to meet Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré, who is the son of legend Ali Farka Touré. Idan was invited to Israel to perform at the Tel Aviv Opera House with him in 2010 and this led to the formation of The Toure-Raichel Collective. This album soared, reaching the top number one spot on the iTunes World Music sales charts and it peaked at number 2 on the Billboard World Music Chart. The US-Canada tour of 2012 had many sold-out shows and great reviews.
Raichel has had the opportunity to perform for some very important people. Among other talented artists, Raichel worked with Grammy winner India.Arie on a project called "Open Door." They began working together in 2008 when India was visiting Israel. Together they performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC in front of President Barack Obama on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day after Obama's election. They also played "Gift of Acceptance" at the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize gala event. In August 2011, the duet performed at the dedication ceremony for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington D.C. in their US tour. Raichel and India.Arie produced Arie's first single "6th Avenue" from her 2013 album songversation. Shimon Peres, the President of Israel and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, asked Idan to compose music for a poem Peres wrote about Israel's Ethiopian community. The song, "The Eyes of Beta Israel," was performed in front of 3,000 people in Jerusalem in January.
The Idan Raichel Project's latest album, Quarter to Six, was released in 2013. There are 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 some of Israel's up-and-coming artists. Quarter to Six reached triple-platinum sales status in Israel, selling over 116,000 copies.
The year 2013 has been a good one for Idan. Many awards have been acclaimed for Idan and the Project. The Project was especially honored to play at a private concert for President Barack Obama during his visit to Israel in March. Idan was also invited by pop star Alicia Keys to perform a duet with her on stage at her sold-out concert at the Nokia Stadium in Tel Aviv. One month later, Raichel shared the stage with Patrick Bruel (French superstar). At the end of the Jewish year in September, Pnai Plus, a popular Israeli weekly magazine, voted Idan Raichel the "Man of the Year." The song "Ba'Layla (At Night)", from The Idan Raichel Project's latest album, was honored as "Song of the Year. Idan was also voted twice as "Musician of the Year "for the years 2013 and 2014 by Galgalatz - the most popular radio station in Israel. The Idan Raichel Project was placed no.1 in Media Forest's chart of "The Most Broadcast Group" in Israel for the years 2013 and 2014, as well as "Group of the Year" in various media charts for the year 2014.
Raichel's collaboration with Alicia Keys deepened in September, 2014, when she invited Raichel and Palestinian singer and qanun player Ali Amr to join her on stage at the Global Citizen Festival in New York's Central Park to perform her song "We Are Here". The event featured artists including Jay Z, Beyoncé, Sting, No Doubt and Carrie Underwood, and appearances by numerous global dignitaries and world leaders. For an audience of 70,000, Keys, Raichel and Amr performed "We Are Here," a new song Keys wrote to unite her audience in a global effort for peace, and to encourage young people to play an active role in making the world a better place. The performance was broadcast to a national audience on NBC that evening.
Alicia Keys praised Raichel in a video she created to commemorate his selection for the 2014 MTV Role Model Award. "This is an amazing, amazing award," Keys said in the video, "which is what you are. But really what you are is just an incredible human being who bridges cultures and promotes tolerance, which there's nothing more important than you and your mission and your work. So congratulations because you inspire me all the time."
On September 30, 2014, The Touré-Raichel Collective released their second album, The Paris Session. While The Paris Session was the result of the same freeform approach that was used in the first album, this time around they decided to feature more songs with vocals, a wider range of instrumentation, and appearances by musician friends such as Senegalese artist Daby Touré on bass, Israeli trumpeter Niv Toar, Malian singer Seckouba Diabate and others. Touré and Raichel had honed their interplay over the course of multiple tours together, but the album possessed the same spontaneous, heartfelt magic as its predecessor.
In November 2014, Idan Raichel toured the United States and Canada alongside Vieux Farka Touré with the Touré-Raichel Collective. The tour included performances in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, Seattle, Toronto and other cities. The Touré-Raichel Collective's performance at Symphony Space in New York City was previewed in a feature article in the November 17th issue of The New York Times entitled "From Mali to Israel, a Musical Bridge." In the article, New York Times music critic Larry Rohter described the Touré-Raichel Collective as "one of the most fruitful and intriguing collaborations in the grab-bag genre known as world music." While in New York, The Touré-Rachel Collective also appeared on WYNC radio's Soundcheck. The North American tour was followed by a sold-out performance at New Morning in Paris, France on November 25, 2014.
On February 5th 2015, Mr. Shimon Peres, the 9th President of the State of Israel, congratulated Idan at a concert in Tel- Aviv: "A day will come when we will cross from an era of war to an era of peace and if someone does not know how (to do so), I would offer this bridge that Idan is building".
The Idan Raichel Project continues to represent a hopeful world in which musical collaboration breaks down the barriers between people of different cultures, ethnicities, religions and beliefs.
After working as a backup musician and recording session player for some of Israel's leading singers, he began working on a demo recording in a small studio he set up in the basement of his parents' home in Kfar Saba. He invited other singers and musicians to participate to create an amalgam of different styles.
As part of the Idan Raichel project, he brought together 70 musicians from a wide variety of backgrounds, including Ethiopian Jews, Arabs, traditional Yemenite vocalists, a toaster and percussionist from Suriname and a South African singer, among others. Gadi Gidor of Helicon Records recognized the potential of Raichel's work and signed him up for an album that became an immediate hit.
Helicon released Raichel's first, eponymous album in 2002. Raichel composed and arranged many of the tracks, performs vocals and plays the keyboard while collaborating with other vocalists and musicians. Hit singles include Boi (בואי / "Come"), Im Telech (אם תלך / "If you go") and M'dab'rim B'sheket (מדברים בשקט / "Speaking Quietly").
As demand for live shows increased, Raichel was booked to perform at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center. Given the number of musicians who participated in the recordings, it would have been impossible to have them all appear on stage, so Raichel selected seven members.
Raichel released his second album, Mi'ma'amakim (ממעמקים / From the Depths) in 2005, after releasing the title track at the end of the preceding year. This track was reminiscent of the opening of Psalm 130 (traditionally recited by Jews in times of distress or mourning). The first and last tracks, Aleh Nisa Baruach and Ha'er Et Einav, feature the Israeli singer Shoshana Damari. In addition to tunes in Hebrew and Amharic, Raichel adds Arabic (in Azini), Zulu (in Siyaishaya Ingoma), Hindi (in Milim Yafot Me'ele), and Yemenite Hebrew to his linguistic repertoire.
In November 2006, a greatest hits album was launched to target an international audience. The Idan Raichel Project is a single CD album published by the record label Cumbancha and shipped outside Israel to an international audience for the first time. The liner notes contain English translations of some of the songs while the enhanced CD contains the band's music videos. The release was coordinated with a special Putumayo World Music collection featuring Idan Raichel entitled One World, Many Cultures. A portion of the proceeds for One World, Many Cultures went to support the nonprofit organization Search for Common Ground, which works to transform the way the world deals with conflict, away from adversarial approaches and towards collaborative problem solving.
His third studio album, Ben Kirot Beyti (Within My Walls), released on November 20, 2008, was a collaboration with many world musicians, and nine different vocalists.
Since their chance meeting at an airport in 2008, Raichel and Vieux Farka Touré, son of Ali Farka Toure, have formed The Touré-Raichel Collective, a collaboration of Malian and Israeli music.
On July 4, 2013, Raichel appeared as a special guest at Alicia Keys's first ever concert in Israel.
On January 16, 2014 ACUM announced that Idan Raichel won the prestige's ACUM Award as Composer of the Year 2013 for his Quarter to Six album.
On September 27, 2014, Raichel appeared as a special guest at Alicia Keys's central park performance.
On November 1, 2014, Raichel received the MTV role model award. Alicia Keys congratulated Raichel with a special surprise video she sent, shown for the first time during the awards
Raichel's style is marked by the Middle Eastern vibe, but also draws on Latin American and African music. While the majority of his songs are in Hebrew, a few are entirely in Amharic, while others include small passages in Amharic, by male and female voices, setting traditional-sounding tunes to modern music. Love-songs predominate in his Hebrew lyrics, including Hinech Yafah (הינך יפה / "Thou art Fair") based on the Song of Songs, while the opening track also reaches into the depths of Jewish liturgy, with B'rachot L'shanah Chadashah (ברכות לשנה חדשה / "Blessings for a new year") sampling voices reciting traditional Jewish blessings.
Raichel expressed his view that real peace can come when people will understand each other culture and learn about it. He hopes that his project will be heard in neighboring countries and maybe will open the door to mutual understanding and from there to real peace.
Raichel used his Instagram account to defend Doron Zahavi (code name: Captain George), a former interrogator for Unit 504 of the Israeli Military Intelligence who was accused of using torture and sodomy in the process of interrogating Mustafa Dirani. In this context, Raichel writes "I really don't care how 'George' extracted information" adding that "instead of receiving a medal of valor, he must now defend his name. This is a disgrace".
In a recent interview, in Yedioth Ahronoth, Raichel was asked about this and said: "If you have a daughter and someone kidnapped her, you investigate that someone and your child's life is at risk. If she is my daughter, I would do whatever necessary to know where she is and to get the information that would save her life. Regardless if that someone is Muslim, Jewish or Christian. It is an example of unnecessary harsh criticism. The intention of the things was taking out of context".
Raichel expressed his view that Israeli artists have a duty to play an active "role" in public relations for the Jewish state and asserted that Israeli conscientious objectors are at the very "bottom of Israeli society".
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license