Interview with Idan Raichel

Interview with Idan Raichel

You’ve seen a large share of success in your country with 2 albums. What are your goals for future work?

Basically we are distributing this compilation with Cumbancha and we look to perform as much as we can to get a wider crowd, wider audience. So we try our best to do with this compilation.

The band is titled after your name, but the stage is generally focused on nameless singers. Why do they remain in the shadows?

It’s not a band and it’s not a collection of singers. It’s a producer album. So in this album there are many different singers and different musicians on it. Altogether, there are about 70 artists, so it’s hard to focus on any specific individuals. It’s people who come and go and use the project as a train for themselves.

You have a lot of fusion from other cultures, through your band members and using foreign languages as well. Are you representing Israel as a melting pot of cultures or simply offer a variety in your music?

Again, I am doing just music in the studio but nowadays we know that there is some side effect that represents Israel as a melting pot. Every 10 or 15 years there is a new wave of immigration in Israel and Israel is greatly influenced by it, by different colors, music, foods, dances. I had a grandfather who emigrated from Russia, from Moscow, my drummer’s parents are from Iraq, singers are from the camps of Sudan and some are from the British communities. So we are just very mixed here.

Do you focus more on the musical or on the lyrical part of your art?

I say it’s the same. I write the music and the lyrics most of the time, but some music members also contribute. It doesn’t matter if there is a new side to it, it’s just what’s best for music as a whole.

This is the 3rd time you tour the US. How does performing here feel for you?

Basically we are touring airports, not the countries. We just came to New York today and we are leaving in the morning. I’ve seen a lot of taxis, but not New York. As far as the audience, I have to admit that American crowd is very open-minded. We are happy to represent our own native culture and languages, from Arabic, to Hebrew and we get a very warm welcome from the crowd. We are very happy to come back for the 3rd time.

Despite strong cultural and political connections with your country, Israeli music is not extremely popular in the US. Is it because the Israeli music scene is not very well developed or is it due to cultural differences?

Israeli mainstream music is not very well known, although Israeli Philharmonic (classical music) is one of the best known orchestras in the world. Also there is a small jazz scene. The Israeli mainstream music basically consist of instruments of Western culture so its not pure Israeli music. Now that the [Idan Raichel] Project is becoming mainstream music we can bring more of the worldwide aspect to it.

How would you compare the US and Israeli music in general?

Israeli music can not be defined that much, because it is a new country. It’s only 50-some years old. So we got tastes from all over. I think it will take a generation or two to create Israeli food, Israeli music and so on.

What US artists interest you?

I grew up on jazz, on Miles Davis, Billy Holiday, Paul Simon… There are great African artists in the US also. You know it’s a huge country. As far as Hip Hop artists, I am not connected to the ‘Ooh baby, I love you’ songs. But real artists like Fugees and people who have statements, such as Erykah Badu, these are the artists that excite me most.

What do you see as the key to your music and Israeli music in general getting more exposure in the US?

We are trying to do our best, to perform all over and we’ll see what happens.

Israel is a very controversial country, with terrorism and unfriendly neighbors. Do you have a political or a social approach yourself outside of music?

Politics are not only about borders. I have a strong political view but I would prefer not to share it. You are interviewing me but I am presenting 69 artists here. 70 artists got 70 different opinions so I have to be considerate of that. We just do our best to do music. I think there is a social statement, but music is the most important thing. I can tell you thou, that I am very proud of working with singers from Yemen, Ethiopia, we have a Palestinian singer with us, it’s about just doing music together.

What do you like or don’t like about the music scene of today?

It’s too huge to judge. It’s the same as if you ask me about what I like and don’t like about foods. There are healthy foods or vegetarian foods and a lot more. There are some artists that are just too commercial, but here is how it is: you are able to appreciate a good restaurant after you ate a lot of junk food. So the junk food has the place of its own and then you can appreciate a good restaurant. So sometimes you can appreciate good music after you hear all of that bullshit.

What would you like to say to the US fans of your band?

That I am very happy and proud to have them among our fans and that we hope they will tell their friends to go to our website and our MySpace page (Idan Raichel Project’s site in English and Idan Raichel Project’s MySpace page).

Coming back to the US in the beginning of 2007, Idan’s sight is clear, his future is bright and his music is unmatched. Bringing unity to his efforts, the Project’s life is music and their music comes from every facet of life.