Idan Raichel Project brings soulful, cross-cultural music to Miami

The Idan Raichel Project brings its worldly music to UM Saturday.
The Idan Raichel Project brings its world music to Miami Saturday.

The Idan Raichel Project changed the face of world music when it burst onto the scene in 2002. The Israel-based band, led by front man Idan Raichel, combines African, Indian, Latin American, Middle Eastern and European rhythms to create an unprecedented blend of sounds. The group’s makeup and music read like a list of minority groups within Israel, most notably Ethiopian Israelis. A performance is scheduled for Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Knight Concert Hall.

The Idan Raichel Project’s cult following has steadily grown since 2002, and its three albums since then have sold around 300,000 copies, a feat in such a niche market. Raichel, an Israeli citizen, invited over 70 musicians to participate in the recordings. The band, as of now, features Ethiopian Jews, Arabs, traditional Yemenite vocalists, a toaster and percussionist from Suriname and a South African singer.

Most of Raichel’s songs are in Hebrew, but other languages featured prominently are Amharic, Arabic, Zulu, Yemenite Hebrew, Spanish, Swahili and Hindi. Jewish liturgy is often referenced in the Hebrew lyrics, but the songs are accessible to all regardless of nationality and religion. The Idan Raichel Project’s third album, Within My Walls, was released stateside February 2009.

Sophomore Naomi Levy grew up surrounded by Israeli culture and music, and her love of Raichel’s music grew when she spent a year in Israel between high school and college. She has seen The Idan Raichel Project perform twice, once in New York City and once in Israel.

She loves the band’s music because it is “chill and relaxed,” naming named “Mima’amakin” and “Bo’ee” as two of her favorite songs.

“[Raichel] is so special because he takes refugees, just real people he finds and likes, and gives them a chance. It is different and something cool. I have never heard of another artist doing this. It’s clear that he not only has music goals but also social justice ideals,” Levy said.

Hillel Rabbinic Director & Campus Liaison Robyn Fisher is also a longtime fan of the band’s music, citing the music’s “great beat.” She saw Raichel perform in front of thousands at an outdoor concert in Jerusalem this summer and was very impressed.

“He’s a major rock star… [The Idan Raichel Project is a] very hot band right now in Israel,” Fisher said.

Sarah B. Pilchick may be contacted at sbpilchick@themiamihurricane.com.