Listening to the music of The Idan Raichel Project is like eating cholent — you’ll find a little of everything.
For all you under-40 Jews, who don’t get the comparison, substitute whatever you make in your Sunbeam slow cooker for cholent. Yeah, now you get it.
The Project, perhaps the most creative new age music group in Israel, is out with a new CD, “Within My Walls,” and it’s not an exaggeration to say a litany of musical genres from around the world are represented. The CD has Ladino lyrics, East Asian percussion, classical string, soft rock and Creole. There’s even a Celtic influence on one song, “She’eriot Shel Ha’Chaim” (Scraps of Life).
Not that any song on this album is entirely Celtic, entirely classical, entirely Sephardic or entirely East Asian, but The Project subtly weaves influences from all these genres into all the selections.
“Mai Nahar” (River Waters) is like tonic for the ears — soft and stirring, just the thing to listen to in the car during rush hour.
“Chalomot Shel Achemrim” (Other People’s Dreams), is a subtly complex song, there are several types of music influences here, including folk, but it is certainly not a folk song. Whimsical yet serious, it actually sounds at times like a fable put to music.
Performing since 2002, the Idan Raichel Project is an 11-member ensemble that brings influences from Cuba, Colombia, Cape Verde, Kenya, America, Israel and Yemen together in a sound that’s unlike any other.
Neither is there one lead singer who overshadows the rest of the band on this CD. Several vocalists — male and female — can be heard, each singing with their own unique influences on display — the countries they lived in, the music they heard, the experiences they had.
But make no mistake, Idan Raichel is the soul of this project. He wrote most of the music and lyrics for this project, and let’s face it, a Jew in dreadlocks wearing a huge hand amulet? He’s the face of this eclectic group as well.
The international flavor of this group is unmistakable. Pick any song on this CD, chances are if you traveled anywhere in the world, you will recognize some of the influences. Everyone is represented on “Within My Walls;” no one is left out. This CD is truly a United Nations of sound.
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)