Last night, music fans who filled the Broad Stage theater in Santa Monica were treated to a joint live performance by Israeli musician/producer Idan Raichel and American soul virtuosa India Arie. It was the second stop on Raichel and Arie’s US tour, and marks the emergence of what has become a highly anticipated musical partnership. The two are working together on Arie’s forthcoming album, Open Door, set for release later this year.
The concert had the feel of an intimate workshop. Though Raichel and Arie have been working together for many months, and performed together at the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, they were encountering some of each other’s material for the first time. Arie also premiered some of her new songs, many of which feature Hebrew lyrics. It is deeply moving to hear her set the language of the Bible to soaring R&B harmonies.
Raichel, whose project includes 85 musicians in Israel of varying ethnic and musical traditions, often changes his arrangements from tour to tour. With Arie, he has found a musical partner who both complements and challenges his ideas. At times, the two sang or played along with each other; sometimes they joined the audience in watching and enjoying each other’s songs. They have room to grow together–and they surely will.
The Idan Raichel project emerged several years ago, during the depths of the intifada. Raichel’s music transcended the bitter political debates and highlighted the vitality and diversity of Israeli culture. For Arie, whose songs sometimes incorporate pacifist or left-wing themes, it might have been easier to avoid working with an Israeli artist. That she has done so is a subtle yet commendable rebuke to the radical boycott movement.