Sounds of Summer

By Jacob Victor

Published June 20, 2007, issue of June 22, 2007.
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Israeli music has come a long way since the European-style folk songs and ballads that still make our grandparents dance. As Israeli society has integrated new ethnic groups and cultures, Israeli music has evolved into an eclectic combination of many different genres. No group better reflects this melting pot than the Idan Raichel Project, which performed last Sunday at New York’s SummerStage, in Central Park.

The Idan Raichel Project combines a diverse mix of folk and reggae with Ethiopian, Yemenite and Arab musical traditions, and performs songs in Amharic, Hebrew and Arabic, among other languages, with lyrics often derived from Jewish scripture. The group, which has released two Israeli and one international album, is the creation of Israeli musician Idan Raichel, who started it in 2002. Raichel, 29, sought to bring together a varied group of musicians of European, Sephardic, Ethiopian and Arab descent to showcase the diverse culture of Israel.

Sunday’s performance featured Cabra Kasai, Lital Gabai and Vograss Avi Vesa on vocals; Shalom Mor on acoustic guitar, tar and oud; Golan Zuskovitch on bass guitar; Roni Irwin on percussion; Haran Shabi on drums, and Raichel on vocals and keyboard. The group played many of its most well-known songs, including “Im Telech” and “Mi’Ma’amakim.”

The Idan Raichel Project’s production and tour manager for the United States, David Azulay, described SummerStage as the group’s “biggest venue ever in America.” The concert, which was free and open to the public, was filled to its capacity of around 5,000 people. There were also several thousand people waiting outside, according to City Parks Foundation.

Azulay said that Raichel viewed the concert as a great success. For him, it was “all about world music and harmony, true music and culture.”

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