No stranger to foreign dignitaries, the Greater Washington community welcomed an ambassador of a different sort on Feb. 22. In an intimately stripped-down performance, Idan Raichel, the famed international music icon from Israel, focused on the original essence of his songs during a solo piano concert at the 1,976-seat concert hall at Strathmore in Bethesda, Maryland.
For over 15 years, through his work with his band, The Idan Raichel Project, Raichel has shared the diversity of Israeli voices and culture through music with the rest of the world. Raichel became well-known internationally with his breakout song in 2003, “Boee,” which has been described as an “entrancing blend of Ethiopian voices and lush global pop.” His songs have been written and performed in collaboration with over 95 artists from across the globe, so watching Raichel perform alone on the stage was a departure from his typical show. Instead of sharing the stage with fellow artists, Raichel created his own percussions and accompaniment by recording his own beats, playing them on a loop, and then layering his live piano playing and Hebrew singing over that.
David Goldstein, owner of SMASH Productions of Silver Spring, said it “was amazing to see Idan Raichel after four or five years. As a solo artist, he is a very talented musician. The rhymes and beats he creates are one of a kind. The way he was able to take his old songs and put a solo, singer-songwriter feel on them was really amazing to see.”
Ahead of the concert, Raichel met with B’nai B’rith International to discuss his own Jewish identity.
“For me, to be Jewish is to feel connected to a whole big chain — a chain of history, of the past, and also to the future. To feel connected to one big family, a big mishpachah around the world,” Raichel said. “You can feel welcome in Hillel in the States or Beit Chabad in India or Colombia or some village in Africa. Always you can take a rest, once a week, to feel welcome in Shabbat dinner, always to find an open door for you and someone to make you feel at home.”
Many attendees arrived at the venue early for a discussion on “Arabic Music and Israeli Identity” by Haim Malka, deputy director and senior fellow of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.
By Jason Langsner
Jason Langsner is an active lay leader of the Washington Jewish community. He is a second-generation Jewish American whose grandfather was a Jewish immigrant from Budapest, Hungary.