Music, peace, and the future

A D’’ash exclusive with singers Idan Raichel and India Arie.

Idan Raichel & India Arie 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Idan Raichel & India Arie 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
For the past 10 years, Idan Raichel has been one of Israel’s most popular, unique and beloved musicians. Unlike most band leaders who stand at the center of the stage, Idan, with his long dreadlocks, thick hair band and baggy pants, sits at his keyboard at the far left of his stage. In extensive tours of Israel and the world, the composer and director prefers to showcase his enchanting blend of musicians - from various countries in African, Latin America and the Caribbean - and their unique sounds.
As the director of the Idan Raichel Project, the 34-year-old from Kfar Saba shares a message of tolerance and love. He has changed the face of Israeli music. Idan Raichel has grown from being a nine-year-old accordion player to an Israeli Army Band musician, to a counselor at a boarding school for immigrants and troubled youth, to the leader of the always evolving Idan Raichel Project, which has so far released three platinum albums.
Now, Idan Raichel is composing music with India Arie, the famous African-American singer songwriter who has sold more than 10 million albums worldwide and won four Grammy Awards.Raichel and Arie performed their song, ‘Gift of Acceptance’ at last year’s Nobel Peace Prize awards. The pair will release their new album, called Open Door, album in March 2012.
D’’ash reporter Howard Blas caught up with India and Idan following their concert at New York City’s Beacon Theater.
D’’ASH: When did you guys first meet? India: I was traveling in Israel in 2008 and was exploring historical sites. I left the tour early and went down to Tel Aviv. I like to explore the music traditions and the populations of a place. I asked people “who are the forward thinking people with intelligent lyrics?” Everyone said “Idan Raichel,” so I arranged to meet him.Idan: I am a big fan of India’s. I was very happy such an established American artist is so open-minded to explore music from other parts of the world. When she came to Israel, it was a really cool dream to have an American singer singing with us in English. I realized there was good chemistry between us so we wrote a whole album together.
D’’ASH: What attracts you to each other? Idan: India is very modest and artistic, and she has a lot of confidence. Sometimes in art and hip hop culture, there are a lot of sexy elements. India presents herself in a very modest way with a lot of grace. It is beautiful to see.India: We just have very similar musical tastes. When I hear his chord progression and melodies, I like it, but even more, I feel it is something I should be singing. I love his music and relate to it and want to sing it. That happens rarely!
D’’ASH: Your New York concert took place the the very same day Gilad Shalit was released. What was your reaction when you heard that he was home? Tell us about your hopes and dreams for the Middle East.Idan: It is a new year in Israel. I hope it will be a year of building foundations for peace. I hope that all prisoners who went back to their side and Gilad Shalit, who came to our side, will represent a movement for fighting for peace and not wars.India: Idan first told me the story of Gilad Shalit when I went to Israel in September, 2010. I don’t know enough about Gilad Shalit and his situation. But it is always beautiful to see someone survive. I hope the prisoners released will commit to peace. It was interesting to be up close with three Israeli musicians from Idan’s band and see how they felt. It was very moving to hear them debating. All had different points of view about the prisoners being released. In the end, they were happy about the release; whatever their previous beliefs had been, they were all happy he was out.
D’’ASH: Can you describe the message of your song ‘Gift of Acceptance?’ What what was it like performing it at the Nobel Prize ceremony?Idan: The melody I had in Israel for the past three or four years.
I sent it to India and she wrote beautiful lyrics. It was everything she wanted to say until now and couldn’t say it, until today. “Gift of Acceptance’ turned out to be one of the most beautiful songs on Open Door. The song represents the idea that people all over the world, regardless of race, gender, and political views, can join together and become a big community.India: It was satisfying and fun and not only because it was at such a prestigious event. My whole life, I have been committed to making music in the name of peace. It was fulfilling to be there and to be singing a song I feel passionate about! It is aligned with my values.
D’’ASH: What was your funniest moment on tour? Idan: To go on stage and start to say, “Good Evening New York, or LA, or Denver” and then pause and realize you don’t even know where you are! India: At our last show of the tour, we were playing Open Door music. There is one part where I sing a song in three part harmony with my back up singers (we sing like sisters!) Anyway, during the show, Idan and Gilad and Yankele (his musicians) surprised me. They suddenly came out from backstage with one microphone, pretending to do the three part harmony. It was terrible!
D’’ASH: What advice can you give to young musicians? Idan: Do it in YOUR way; follow your own dreams and inspirations. Learn from the past to build your own foundations for what you want to do in the future.India: Know that you have to do what you love. Sometimes you do what you THINK will make money or will be popular. When you do what you really love, things fall in to place in a special way.