Complete with a soulful expression, a palate of international sounds and a multinational stage filled with talented friends, this dreadlocked Israeli singer/musician has much going for him. Not least is his capacity to organize, as Within My Walls, the Idan Raichel Project’s third album shows.
The IRP, first unveiled in 2002, bears the name of its creator but it also functions as a showcase for a diverse bunch of guests. Singers include the wonderful Colombian Marta Gómez, the Rwandan/Ugandan Somi and, from Cape Verde, Mayra Andrade. In terms of shaping the music, Raichel himself operates deftly: Middle Eastern percussion, Persian fiddles, rare woodwinds all meet in a swirl that’s fleshed out by a 24-piece orchestra and some zephyrs of electronic mood-setting. Hebrew, Spanish, Swahili and Arabic – the latter sung by the Moroccan-Israeli Shimon Buskila – lyrics flash by. The effect is of an elaborate pick ’n’ mix.
The IRP is big news in Israel and its middle-of-the-road, culture-lite sounds are, on international stages, proving popular. But there are caveats. Within My Walls – an odd title, given the political geography of Israel/Palestine – projects a vision of multicultural music that seems to have little space, on this album at any rate, for Palestinian musicians.