Fri, Sep 26, 2014 - Page 10 News List

Live Wire: Come together

By Joe Henley  /  Contributing reporter

The Idan Raichel Project will perform tomorrow at the Daniel Pearl Day of Music, a free concert held at Taipei Hakka Cultural Park.

Photo courtesy of Elad Weizman

This year, Daniel Pearl Day takes on a heightened level of poignancy following the brutal slaying of American journalist James Foley at the hands of Islamic State militants who are currently staging an insurgency in both Iraq and Syria. Much like Pearl, Foley was killed not for any offense he had committed, but for his nationality, the US the sworn enemy of the upstart IS. The killing highlights the fact that we are still living in an age when people are murdered in cold blood simply for possessing the wrong passport, for having the so-called wrong-colored skin, or for having the, quote-unquote, wrong faith.

We are living in a time when such things divide us — this terrible division having no basis whatsoever within the bounds of logic or human compassion. In such times, we need something to bring us together, not drive us further apart and deeper into the abyss of never-ending war and retribution. It may seem something of an oversimplification, but music could be at least a small part of the long, slow process of unification.

In talking about music as a tool of unification, it’s difficult to avoid getting bogged down in hippy-esque statements about “really doing something, man,” or delving into the celebrity sound bite, “We Are The World”-ness of it. To say in earnest that music is changing the world around it, and not just providing a platform for ego and self-interest, you need something more concrete. One man providing something tangible in that regard is Israeli singer/songwriter Idan Raichel. For over a decade, Raichel has been combining musical languages from all corners of the globe both figuratively and literally, creating seamless juxtapositions of cultures and styles and molding them into a genre all his own that the term World Music does little justice. His band, the Idan Raichel Project, will perform without him at the Daniel Pearl Day concert in Taipei this year, with the founder being called at the last minute to appear at a concert in New York put together by hip hop icon Jay-Z.

Attendees in Taipei will still have a chance to see his namesake group, however, which takes on various incarnations of anywhere from three to 25 musicians on stage. The result is a form of expression that goes far beyond musical boundaries.

“These musicians, without the band, might never [have] met otherwise,” says Raichel in e-mail interview with the Taipei Times.

“These are musicians from totally different backgrounds, from rock musicians, to village African musicians, from East European classical musicians to DJs of electronic music. They have came from such different places, Morocco, Yemen, the US, Argentina, Ethiopia, the former U.S.S.R., and who knows if they could meet all in the same room without the Idan Raichel project.”

The journey to worldwide recognition for Raichel was a slow one at first. Upon introducing his ambitious melding of music to record labels in his homeland a dozen years ago, he was met with resigned comments on how his style was too “ethnic” to make its mark on the pop scene. But Raichel was determined to give the diverse minorities of Israel a voice.

“In our beloved country,” says Raichel, “there are so many immigrants from so many places around the world, but their voices would not have been heard in the mainstream. The main change that we did with the band is to bring the voices of the streets, the real voices, to the mainstream.”

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