Idan Raichel and Vieux Farka Toure: Fusion Music Magic Coming to Minneapolis

“These players delve into the swirling waters of our globalized music culture and pull out bright fish, almost perfect, as if designed instead of conjured in the heat of improvisation.”
Banning Eyre, National Public Radio
“…possibly the most aggressively ingenious fusion record that I’ve ever heard, and one that raises the bar for all world fusion music from here on out.” Megan Romer, About.com World Music

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Vieux Farka Toure and Idan Raichel combine their considerable talent to create unforgettable music (Photo credit: Nitzan Treystman)

In November, 2010, in a Tel Aviv recording studio, four enormously gifted musicians gathered for an unrehearsed, unscripted recording session. Acclaimed Israeli pianist, composer and bandleader, Idan Raichel, and Mali’s legendary guitarist, composer and singer, Vieux Farka Toure, joined forces, accompanied by Israeli bass player, Yossi Fine, and Malian calabash player, Souleymane Kane. Says Raichel of the session, “It was the first time in many, many years of going back to the days when I met up with artists and friends in Tel Aviv and put together a new band.” The fruit of their free-flowing collaboration was The Toure-Raichel Collective, whose debut album, “The Tel Aviv Session”(Cumbancha Records) is now #1 on the iTunes World Album list for the US.The recording has been hailed as a landmark collaboration, and is drawing superb reviews from all corners.

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The Toure-Raichel Collectives debut album, "The Tel Aviv Session" (Cumbancha Records)

Raichel had long admired the music of Ali Farka Toure, Vieux’s father and musical inspiration. A chance encounter with Vieux at a German airport in 2008 led to friendship, a joint concert in Tel Aviv in 2010, and from there, to the Tel Aviv recording session. “The Tel Aviv Session” album debuted in March; Toure and Raichel’s concert tour, which runs through May 1, is bringing them (and fellow musicians Fine and Kane) to cities across the US and Canada. The quartet has already toured Israel; if unrest in Mali subsides, they would love to perform there as well.

The North American concert tour includes Minneapolis! On Monday evening, April 16 Toure and Raichel will appear in concert at the Dakota Jazz Club. Showtime is 7 p.m. Tickets are going fast, but a few seats remain. Tickets: call 612.332.5299 or online.

Vieux Farka Toure and Idan Raichel are both considered world class artists. Toure, while remaining true to the roots of his father’s music, uses elements of rock, Latin music, and other African influences. He has established himself as a virtuoso guitarist, with three critically acclaimed albums to his credit. Toure has been characterized as generational bridge, connecting American and African blues music and culture. Raichel, instantly recognizable by his trademark long dreadlocks and black turban, pioneered an entirely new genre of Israeli music when he founded The Idan Raichel Project in 2002. The band began by experimenting with the rhythms and music of Ethiopian immigrants, who emigrated to Israel in large numbers during the ’80s and ’90s. Their debut album of haunting, evocative compositions, many sung in Amharic, was a triple-platinum hit and attracted a world-wide audience. Like a master chef who knows intuitively how to combine seemingly disparate flavors, Raichel serves up a musical cuisine that dazzles. Subsequent hit albums have blended traditional Yemenite chants, songs in a multitude of languages, including Arabic, Spanish and Swahili, and traditional instruments – the oud (North African stringed instrument) and the kamancheh (Persian fiddle) to name but a few.

Raichel shared reflections with me in a pre-concert telephone interview. He was generous in his praise of Jacob Etgar, head of Cumbancha Records, who, after listening to the initial recording, persuaded Raichel that an album was hidden inside. “Etgar was sure we had an uncut diamond here. I began an eighteen month process of polishing that diamond, and the result is one I am very proud of.” Raichel feels that Toure also dreamed of playing music that would become such an album, music that was spontaneous, not rehearsed for months. Recalls Raichel, “We became soul mates that night in Tel Aviv.” Looking back on the process, Raichel credits the courage of not only the musicians, but all the people “backstage” who supported their unconventional endeavor- management of Cumbancha Records and each artists own management team.

Fans of the Idan Raichel Project can rest assured that Raichel will continue to make music with the group he founded. Energized from this break, the Idan Raichel Project will resume touring in late May. “We are in constant touch with each other, but when we take a break, we miss each other musically.” Before that tour begins, Raichel will perform a concert with the legendary Bobby McFerrin. A recording project with India Arie (Universal) will soon be underway.

Gracious and warm throughout our conversation, Raichel concluded the interview by sharing with me how much it means to hear from those who love his music. He encourages people to keep in touch via Facebook and Twitter (@IdanRaichel1). “The biggest compliment is when people tell us that our music became the soundtrack of their day.”

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About Sally Abrams

Sally co-directs the Speakers Bureau of the Jewish Community Relations Council. She has presented the program “Israel and the Middle East: the Challenge of Peace” at hundreds of churches, schools and civic groups throughout the Twin Cities and beyond. She also teaches a Hebrew language course for the University of Minnesota's College in the Schools program at the Talmud Torah of Minneapolis.

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