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Rainbow Coalition

For an album with a much-celebrated wide range of cultural influences

February 24, 2009

For an album with a much-celebrated wide range of cultural influences, the Idan Raichel Project‘s Within My Walls (released today in the U.S.) is remarkably cohesive, even a tad bit homogenous. Musicians from South America, Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East come together to create a recognizably “world music” sound. Raichel himself can sound a bit like an Israeli Enrique Iglesias, and the music is a little melodramatic—it’s the kind of anthemic sound that’s much more appealling if you can belt out the lyrics along with the recording, which will probably take me a few more listens (of course, I’ll be at a disadvantage, seeing as I’m an English speaker, but I’ve never let that stop me before).

Within These Walls benefits exponentially from female guest vocalists: the startlingly intimate voice of Colombian singer Marta Gómez makes the songs “Todas Las Palabras” and “Cada Día” stand out; the former especially charms with its unusual rhythms and lilting melody. In “Mai Nahar,” the sound of flowing water blends with the unconventional phrasing and clear, innocent-sounding voice of fellow Israeli Anat Ben Hamo so well that it loses any residue of rain-stick tribal appropriation; and “Maisha” features the breathy, melancholy voice of East African singer Somi progressing further into a haunting repetitive wail.

Raichel is lauded for achieving the ever elusive goal of bringing together disparate cultures in Israel and thus uniting people, and his band’s massive popularity is testament to the market there for unpoliticized cross-cultural art of the soul-swelling variety. The Idan Raichel Project will be touring America this March.