The Idan Raichel Project are currently taking their native Israel by storm, and this very sophisticated mix of Middle Eastern and Western styles is destined to repeat the success elsewhere. The Israeli keyboard player, songwriter, arranger and producer Idan Raichel has a vision of cross-cultural co-operation and celebration of difference that he likes to communicate through his music. So this broad-ranging collaboration is infused with an astonishingly diverse set of musical and cultural influences; from the subtly spiritual traditions of Jewish Ethiopian music that has captured Raichel’s imagination, through a very modern production approach, to the occasional subtle use of reggae beats, Arabic crooning or Mediterranean acoustic instrumentation, this is a rich and mildly rooted collection of understatedly soulful music.
Be’Yom Shabbat probably exemplifies this best, being a combination of Arabic and Jewish flavours that achieves a harmony that many of these musicians would surely like to see reflected in the political situation in the region.
Ayal-Ayale is another highlight, and possibly the most multi-cultural song on the album, with beautiful acoustic guitar picking, a nice subtle reggae lilt and a delightful African guitar figure throughout. The album will be a challenge in places for those who prefer their music more rooted in the traditions from which these songs come — at times the electronic and instrumental embellishments have a tendency to veer towards a generic Westernised sheen that takes the sound perilously close to the middle of the road — but it’s an inspiring and at times inspirational attempt to bring ancient traditions and contemporary technology together.