Israeli musician Idan Raichel has been performing his solo piano concerts around the world since 2015 and this fall he’s stopping in three Canadian cities to serenade audiences.
Raichel began playing solo after the release of his ninth album, At the Edge of the Beginning, in 2015. The stripped-down recording, featuring Raichel singing ballads and accompanying himself on piano, heralded a new musical direction for him.
Until 2015, Raichel was mainly known as the dreadlocked leader of the Idan Raichel Project, a group of up 10 musicians that fuses electronic music with Middle Eastern and Ethiopian rhythms and Hebrew and Amharic lyrics. The project shot to international fame after the 2002 release of Raichel’s breakthrough hit, “Bo’ee,” which was recorded in his parents’ basement in Kfar Saba, Israel.
He said the birth of his eldest daughter, Philipa, who’s now six years old, inspired, him to write the gentle, introspective songs on At the Edge of the Beginning, his first solo album, and on his 2017 double solo album, Idan Raichel: Piano Songs. He also shaved his trademark dreadlocks, which symbolized the personal changes he experienced when he became a father, and he went on his first solo tour.
The birth of Philipa and her four-year-old sister, Salome, changed the priorities in his life, Raichel told The CJN. “I still love to perform, I still love to have concerts, I still love to tour, but now everything has its price. If I’m travelling for two months, it means I’m not here in Israel,” he said.
He added that his children have influenced him musically. “Sometimes I feel I hear music through their ears, in a more innocent way,” he said.
Raichel performed an intimate solo piano concert at a November 2017 gala in Toronto to celebrate Canadian Hadassah-Wizo’s 100th birthday. “I felt that I’m inviting the listeners to my living room and I’m sharing my heart with the listeners,” he said at the time.
When he goes onstage at the Roy Thomson Hall on Nov. 10, part of his three-city Canadian tour, his “living room” will be a 2,630-seat venue, one of the city’s largest concert halls. “It’s a real challenge to keep the intimate feeling,” Raichel said. “The challenge will be, even if there are thousands of people in the venue, still to play so that everyone will feel they came to my living room.”
Raichel will play acoustic piano, electric piano, guitar, percussion, drum pad, looper and toy instruments that belong to his two daughters, which he uses to create sounds to celebrate his fatherhood. At the 2017 Hadassah-Wizo gala, the presence of his children was palpable, when in the middle of a song he played a toy xylophone.
When Raichel went on the road by himself in 2015, the Idan Raichel Project took a break. The band reunited to perform 35 concerts at the June 2018 Idan Raichel Festival in Rishon LeZion, Israel.
Rachel’s latest album, And If You Will Come to Me, includes a track by the Idan Raichel Project. A world music recording, it also features guest musicians from Japan, Bulgaria, Ethiopia, Cuba and India, as well as Israeli stars Berry Sakharof and Zehava Ben. The album’s title track, “Ve’Eem Tavo’ee Elay,” in Hebrew, has been streamed on YouTube more than 18 million times.
“Every album is a kind of evolution because I see my albums as a kind of documentary of my life,” Raichel said. “The latest album is just the compositions and the text I felt are speaking to me in the past two years, close to my heart.”
Idan Raichel performs on Nov. 7 at the Olympia in Montreal, on Nov. 9 at the Palais Montcalm in Quebec City and Nov. 10 at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto. Visit idanraichelproject.com for more info.