When you read about Jews and Muslims in a news headline, you immediately think of deep-seeded cultural rifts and Middle-Eastern turmoil. “What happened this time?” is invariably the question in your mind.
Yet Idan Raichel’s new artistic kinship with Malian-born Vieux Farka Toure has the Jewish-Muslim duo making headlines for other reasons – positive ones.
Raichel, Israel’s music superstar, met Toure in a Berlin airport in 2008, and their musical kinship took root. In 2010, while on tour for his Idan Raichel Project – the ethnically nuanced album that propelled him to international fame – he travelled to Cartagena, Spain, to join Toure onstage. Later that year, Toure returned the favor, visiting the Tel Aviv Opera, and, the following day, through a jam session in a small Tel Aviv studio, Raichel’s new project was born.
‘The Tel Aviv Session’, which combines Israeli melodies and the organic rhythms of traditional African call and response styles, was released last month, the first product of the Toure-Raichel Collective. The album follows the three-hour unscripted jam session, and the soft and slightly nervous tones of the first track depict the musicians search for a common chord. Then they find it.
“The connection is innate,” Toure says of his musical compatibility with Raichel, who served in the Israel Defense Forces. “We never prepared anything for the session. I kind of hesitate to call them songs. They are riffs, musical ideas.”
And these riffs, these ideas, whether they intend to or not, are proving the possibility of cohesion in a region so divided.
The Toure-Raichel Collective, currently on tour through North America and Canada, is not the first liaison of Jewish and Muslim talent, yet, unlike the Israeli-Iranian rapping duo, Mazzi and Sneakas, Raichel and Toure are not playing the politics game, they are simply making music.
“Music has no borders,” says Toure, declaring that the “spirit between people” is what is important.
Raichel, who says his music tries to bring people of different backgrounds together in a way where “each is equal to the other,” echoes these sentiments.
“Around 100 years ago Jewish people lived in Libya, Syria, and Yemen. In Jerusalem, Jews and Muslims live together.”
“I don’t need to build a bridge. It is all very natural.”
To watch a performance by Toure and Raichel together, click below.