Home Culture Arts & Entertainment Idan Raichel went from the basement to the world stage

Idan Raichel went from the basement to the world stage

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Idan Raichel at a recent solo performance in Toronto, RUTH SCHWEITZER PHOTO

Israeli superstar Idan Raichel performed a solo piano concert for supporters of Canadian Hadassah-Wizo (CHW) at a recent gala in Toronto that was held to celebrate the organization’s 100th birthday.

Early in his career, Raichel taught music at the CHW Hadassim Children and Youth Village. His students included the duo, Guy and Yahel, who were discovered on the TV show, The Voice Israel. They auditioned for the show by performing a cover of one of Raichel’s songs.

Raichel has been performing solo piano concerts around the world, since the release of his ninth album, At the Edge of the Beginning, in 2015. The stripped-down recording featuring Raichel singing ballads and accompanying himself on piano heralded a new musical direction for him.

Up until 2015, Raichel was mainly known as the dreadlocked leader of the Idan Raichel Project, a group of up 10 musicians that fuses electronic music with Middle Eastern and Ethiopian rhythms and Hebrew and Amharic lyrics. The project shot to international fame after the 2002 release of Raichel’s breakthrough hit, Bo’ee, which was recorded in his parents’ basement in Kfar Saba, Israel.

He said the birth of his eldest daughter, who’s now four, inspired him to write the gentle, introspective songs on At the Edge of the Beginning, his first solo album. He also shaved his trademark dreadlocks, which symbolized the personal changes he experienced when he became a father, and went a solo tour. “I felt that I’m inviting the listeners to my living room and I’m sharing my heart with the listeners,” Raichel said in an email interview.

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During his intimate performance at the CHW gala, the presence of his two daughters – the younger one is two and a half – was palpable, when in the middle of a song, he started playing a toy xylophone.

With Raichel performing his solo piano concerts around the world, the Idan Raichel Project has been on hiatus. “I took a big break from the Idan Raichel Project after 13 years, to let other members of the project experience their own solo career, and just to go on the road by myself,” he said.

The project’s musicians think of the group as a second family and they are looking forward to returning to the concert circuit. “I think we will start to rehearse again and play music again, as we are missing each other so much. Hopefully, we will be able to play again in the summer of 2018,” Raichel said.

Over the years, the Idan Raichel Project became a cultural ambassador for Israel, as did Raichel. “It was a huge privilege for us for many years to be considered world music, but world music from our beloved country,” he said. “When people went to our concerts, they felt we took them to visit our beloved country. It’s an honour for us and for myself, and it’s something that we will keep on doing for many years.”
Reflecting on the power of music, Raichel said it is a universal language: “Without knowing your accent, without knowing your background or your religion, we play music and we feel connected and we connect immediately. Thank God that we have this language between us, thank God that we have this ability to connect.”

CHW currently funds a multitude of projects and programs in Israel. They include six daycare centres, two youth villages, the Hadassah Hospital, the WIZO Parental Hotline, the Marla Dan Stroke and Invasive Neuroradiology Institute, as well as community and women’s centres.

In Toronto, the organization funded the CHW Exam Room in the Louise Temerty Breast Cancer Centre at Sunnybrook Hospital. The group also supports Canadian Young Judaea, which offers young people the opportunity to attend Jewish summer camp and to volunteer at a CHW daycare centre.

Raichel’s solo piano tour stops in Toronto at 8 p.m. on Feb. 24, for a show at the
Toronto Centre for the Arts. For tickets, visit ticketmaster.ca.