Catalina Maria Johnson

International radio broadcaster, bilingual cultural journalist, music curator


“It was not the coolest things to play accordion when I was young, but now I am grateful that those are my musical roots,” comments Idan Raichel, the renowned Israeli world-music composer and pianist. He continues to describe his musical upbringing, which has now culminated in becoming a superstar in his homeland and a highly-acclaimed musician world-wide: “My family wasn’t musical, but every Friday my father bought a new vinyl of what he had heard and liked on Israeli radio, from Ladysmith Black Mambazo to Kenny G to Dolly Parton or even classical music! So you mix these with me playing the accordion, and I was exposed to music from all over.”

His homeland shaped his musical vision in a definitive way, says Raichel: “Not all music is created from the same place. A chef is making food but so is McDonalds, and also, home dishes are food. The music that we are trying to do, especially those of us in so-called ‘world music’, is really sharing the soundtrack of the place that we come from with the rest of the world. There are world music artists, like Edith Piaf, she is the sound of France and Mercedes Sosa is the soundtrack of Argentina. The place I create music from is from my heart,  the same way I love the home dishes of my mom. The greatest honor is if people listen to my music and imagine that they are in the streets of Tel Aviv.”

Raichel has become known as an innovative musician with a particular talent for bringing together musicians of great artistry from many different countries to record and perform as part of the ever-evolving “Idan Raichel Project”. Speaking by phone, he is now in the U.S. touring with a recent undertaking, the Touré-Raichel Collective.

The collective is celebrating the release of a CD titled “Tel Aviv Session” that documents a magical one-night jam session when Raichel, Malian virtuoso guitarist Vieux Farka Touré and two other musicians played music all night long. Raichel describes the experience as one in which Farka-Touré took the lead and they recorded “like the soundtrack for one long drive in the night. No verses and choruses, no lyrics to follow, just atmosphere. Just kind of a long ride of musicians playing through the night…”

The collaboration with Farka-Touré, explains Raichel, began practically by chance when they encountered each other in Munich airport while touring: “Always, you can find the beautiful story. We are just musicians who love to play together. He comes from the village of Niafunké, I come from the city of Tel Aviv. He comes from a very Muslim country, I come from a very Jewish country. He goes deep into his roots, and I’m going wide with many influences. ”

We look forward to the telling of that beautiful story.

The Touré-Raichel Collective will perform at Old Town School on April 19.

Check Catalina’s blog and the archives of Beat Latino  (like Beat Latino on FBtoo!) to explore the roots as well as trends in Latin musical arts.

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