A multicultural message resonates beyond ‘walls’

Sydney Sherman | Op-Ed Submission

With upcoming Palestinian elections in January, the settlement building in the West Bank, and ongoing interim peace deals with Palestinians, Israel is not often cast in a positive light. Most media sources are quick to dismiss Israel as a volatile political climate, and fail to notice all its cultural and academic achievements. Refusing to become lost in a melting pot, Israel’s many diverse communities each contribute to the rich cultural environment of the state.

The Idan Raichel Project, founded by keyboarder, producer and composer Idan Raichel, is such a contribution, promoting a message of multiculturalism throughout Israel and the world. Drawing from Latin-American, Caribbean, Middle-Eastern and African music, the Idan Raichel Project is a unique blend of cultures. When Idan first started his “project,” he sought to reflect originality in his music and invited more than 70 musical artists with whom he could collaborate.

Once the Idan Raichel Project gained momentum, an Israeli label signed a deal, and recordings began. Since then, Raichel has narrowed his collaborators to seven of drastically different backgrounds, with each contributing to the evolution of their collective. As Idan has said, he chose to name his album “The Idan Raichel Project” because he is the composer and writer, but not the lead voice, on all the album’s tracks. Idan explains the concept of the project more thoroughly: “I would sit on the side and watch things and see what occurs. Every song would have a different singer; we would sit in a half circle and each musician would have a chance to demonstrate what they have to offer.”

Idan’s most recent album, “Within My Walls,” showcases the works of Cuban and Cape Verdean Maya Andrade, Moroccan Shimon Buskila, and Colombian singer and songwriter Marta Gómez, along with East African Somi, to name only a few of the contributors. Most of the artists are influenced by an array of different cultures, rather than having just one definable identity. The diversity within the group allows each artist to build on the many traditions of the others. Their unique collaboration has granted these artists the opportunity to perform on well-known stages such as the Sydney Opera House, the Central Park SummerStage, the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles, and a variety of other venues across Europe, Africa and North America. Idan’s lyrics, in Hebrew, Moroccan Arabic, Cape Verdean Creole, Spanish and Swahili, reflect his resonant message of tolerance and love, unifying the audiences they reach worldwide.

Though it took some time for the Israeli music scene to accept the uniqueness of the Idan Raichel Project, it has now become “a multi-ethnic tour de force,” according to Billboard Magazine. The project’s immense success and growth in the past five years alone have been quite impressive, garnering the acclaim of both The New York Times and the BBC. In the same vein as Idan’s music, Israel has fostered a deep tradition of multiculturalism since its independence in 1948. While Israel is considered the Jewish state, in actuality, its 6.5 million inhabitants come from various ethnic backgrounds, religions and traditions. Wash. U. students will have the opportunity to take part in Idan’s diverse collective themselves this Thursday.

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