For the last 10 years, the
Idan Raichel Project has continued to change the way people think about popular
music. The Israeli collective has featured countless singers and musicians of
all ages and from all parts of the world in its recordings and tours, painting a
musical mural of Israel's diversity, all while topping Israel's pop charts.
The project comes to Chicago on Thursday, May 15, at the Auditorium Theatre,
50 E. Congress Parkway, for the Israeli Jazz and World Music Festival, part
JUF's Israfest. Those interested in a taste of Idan Raichel Project can email
giftIRP@gmail.com to receive a link to a free download of a few of their
Raichel, the project's architect-or director as he would
say-spoke to JUF News about the evolution of his group, the collaborative
process and the power of music as a cultural education tool.
JUF News: Tell us about the direction of the project in
Idan Raichel: In the past we have been touring all the
time and recording on the road … we don't have the privilege of taking the time
just to record, then go on the road for a few months, then concentrate on
recording-it's all mixed together. After many years, the routine became very
exhausting for us. We felt we needed to go back … Kurt Cobain once said with all
the success of Nirvana, at the end of the day he missed the times they would've
met a few friends in a garage. This is something we are focusing on now. I've
asked not to perform much before the USA tour and just to be concentrated in the
studio and go back to the jam session process and play with my friends and new
musicians. It also makes you hungrier and ready to go on the road.
Why has your passion for music always involved working with so many
other musicians and featuring their talent?
I see myself as a
director of a film. As a director of a film, it's not for granted that I will
write the script; sometimes someone will write the dialogue with me. Sometimes
as the director of the film, I will also play one of the roles, but sometimes
I'm casting different "actors" to sing the "monologue" in this song. I don't
feel as a singer that it's a must that I sing my own songs. It's important not
to let the band structure limit you from your artistic goals, to make the scene
in the movie that you're making perfect.
Do you see the diversity
of the project
as a way to show the potential for peace and collaboration
among people of different backgrounds?
collaboration, we can give a different perspective about cultures they don't
know. It goes deeply even to conflict regions, like the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict … My band was the first to bring a Palestinian vocalist into the
mainstream, the first to bring the voices of the minorities from East Africa
facing questions of racism. In a country where it's still forbidden to play
Wagner, we brought a German-speaking singer into the Israeli mainstream. It's an
opportunity to expose people to music from all over the world, but also to bring
our music to people all over the world.
Why do you think music
is a big part of the boycott movement against Israel?
people think that by putting pressure on artists or singers to not come to a
conflict region will put pressure on the government of the places the artists
are coming from. I feel by boycotting you're actually boycotting people. If
someone doesn't want to play in Israel, they're boycotting their fans who just
want to listen to their music. The government doesn't care about their music.
They're losing all their fans here who are disappointed because they just want
to listen to their music.
How do you approach the responsibility
of being a musical and cultural representation of Israel to audiences in the
I see myself as an Israeli musician. I don't see myself as
an ambassador for Israel, I see myself as a cultural ambassador for the culture
of Israel. These people are coming to my concerts. At the end of the evening, if
I can have one wish, it is they will remember this music as the soundtrack of
Israel. If people after listening to the concert want to know more about Israeli
art, it would be a success. People who will remember the music Idan Raichel
Project as something that reminds them of the landscape of my country, it would
be great. But I have no expectations-I would love just to see people coming to
the concert and enjoying it.