The Idan Raichel Project brought down the packed house at Lisner Auditorium Tuesday night. True to their reputation, this collaboration of artists reflecting the origin of many Israeli minorities was a seamless integration of many musical traditions into one, electrifying ensemble.
Idan Raichel began the Project ten years ago when he became interested in the music and culture of those that had recently immigrated to Israel. 95 musicians have participated in the Project, the youngest of which was 16, the oldest 91. They have come and gone over the years, many pursuing solo careers or other projects.
As a true collaborator, Idan Raichel did not make himself the focal point of the evening. The spotlight was always on the musician leading the ensemble at that point, whether it be a three-minute accentuation of the drummer from Rio, Sudanese refugee, singer Cabra Casay, or Ethiopian star Avi Wassa.
The ensemble changes even during the tour. Last night’s ensemble was different than the one that performed in Miami only four nights before. Last night, the 10 member ensemble was comprised of Idan Raichel (piano, keys, and vocals), singers Cabra Casay, Maya Avraham, and Avi Wassa, Eyal Sela (flutes and clarinets), Yaakov Segal (Tar, Baglama, Bass, and Busuki), Marc Krakon (electric and acoustic guitars), Joel Perpignan (percussion and vocals), Ziv Rahav (bass and acoustic guitar), and Itay Nizan (drums). Each highly skilled performer brought another layer to the performance.
Melodies were sung in Amharic, Hebrew, Zulu, Hindi, Arabic, Portugese, and a Moroccan dialect. One need not understand one word of any of the languages to be mesmerized.
After 90 minutes of the two hour program, the experience turned from one of listening to participating in a dance party. The ensemble launched into a vibrating Ethiopian beat drawing dancing throngs to toward the stage, in the aisles and, when those spaces were filled, in the rows of seats. Some audience members were invited onto the stage and put on dance performances equal to that of the ensemble members.
The Idan Raichel Project has changed the face of Israeli music, representing a multi-ethnic Israel that is often lost in the context of the larger conflict in the Middle East. The project celebrates music as a unifying force.
Running time: Two hours, with no intermission.