Acclaimed singer, producer and composer Idan Raichel is one of Israel’s most popular performers. And for good reason: he takes music in new directions, with renowned collaborators, foreign languages and more. On May 18t he’ll perform during the grand final interval with 24 singers and musicians. Their performance of “Bo’ee – Come to Me” won’t be forgotten. At the end of the act, Idan will be joined on stage by all 26 finalists.
Ahead of that glorious finish, here are 10 facts about Idan Raichel that make him an Israeli superstar.
1. Raichel started his professional career as a session player on the piano.
But that wasn’t his first instrument. As a kid growing up in Kfar Saba, a suburb north of Tel Aviv, his very first instrument was what he describes as “the most uncool.” Can you guess what it was?* Hint: it’s a frequent flyer at Jewish weddings and klezmer shows… Scroll down for the answer!
2. Raichel is considered the pioneer of Israeli world music.
After working as a counsellor for new immigrants, he became fascinated by working with foreign sounds and invited local performers of diverse backgrounds, including Ethiopian Jews, to experiment with snippets of pieces he composed. He called the concept, “The Idan Raichel Project.” When his song “Bo-ee” played on Israeli air waves, it became an instant hit.
3. Almost overnight, the Idan Raichel Project became a sensation.
Since then, Raichel has united more than 150 musicians from diverse cultural backgrounds all over the world with performances in Arabic, German, Spanish, Amharic, French and other tongues. The project is a powerful symbol not only of Israel’s diversity but also, as Raichel sees it, the ways music brings people together. This summer in Israel, the Idan Raichel Project is performing at some fab Israeli venues. You can still get tickets.
4. Raichel has collaborated with a wide range of international acts.
They include Dave Matthews and Alicia Keys, Portugal’s Ana Moura, France’s Patrick Bruel, Italy’s Ornella Vanoni, Germany’s Andreas Scholl, and Mali’s Vieux Farka Touré among others! Some of these artists, including Indie.Arie have joined him on stage in Israel, including dramatic venues al fresco in the middle of the Judean desert near the Dead Sea. It was well worth the 90 degree heat and intense hot night winds to witness their performance! In 2015, Raichel joined Bruel and Moroccan singer Youness El Guezouli at the Paris Ópera to sing ” Pourquoi ne pas y croire…” (Why Not Believe) in French, Arabic and Hebrew. Their performance underscored the need for unity and compassion in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks that had occurred less than a week earlier.
5. He’s made music with vegetables.
Among the international artists with whom Raichel has collaborated was a South American who drummed on a dried gourd in water. With a mic hovering nearby, the drummer captured gorgeous, rhythmic sounds. The set climaxed with a final outpouring of the water into another vessel. As they say in these parts, “Ya’alah!” The concept didn’t exactly win over the unions at his shows in the United States who were concerned with mixing fire (electricity) with water. Raichel refused to concede and said he would rather pay the fines then sacrifice this fascinating element of the show!
6. He’s a man of many styles.
For years, Raichel wore dreds. At a pre-Eurovision event with foreign journalists this spring, he explained that during his mandatory service in the Israeli military, in which he landed a coveted spot in the country’s beloved Army Band, he had to shave his head. So after his discharge, he let his hair go wild and wooly. His signature dreds got so massive, eventually, it was time to say goodbye. Exit long locks. Enter razor.
7. Many of his songs are about love.
Even if you can’t understand the lyrics, you can catch the vibe. His hit, “Ve’Eem Tavo’ee Elay” (And If You Will Come To Me), which captured more than 23 million views, has a chorus that loosely translates as: “If you join me, we will stay all night. I will whisper words so you know I am yours. In the morning you’ll see, we’re together. We will walk our path, always hand in hand.” As you can see, its sounds awesome in Hebrew. What a romantic!
8. He’s a self-described lady’s man.
His “lady,” as he puts it, is non-Jewish Austria native Damaris Deubel, who persuaded him to shave off his dreads, and with whom he fathers two daughters. His first solo album, Ha’Yad Ha’Cham (The Warm Hand) released in 2016, represented a turning point in which Raichel takes stock of the past and ponders love, life and family, imagining, he says, what will be important to him in the future.
9. He’s racked up 50 million+ views on YouTube.
Given his past, we already have a pretty good idea what his future might hold… His vids have already attracted more than 50 million views on YouTube. Check out “Im Telech”. The title phrase “If you go” is followed by the words of a fragile heart. “If you go, who will hold me like this?” Swoon!