SM PIER — Tonight’s concert for the 25th Annual Twilight Dance Series brings together two artists whose music spans different continents yet project a similar message, a celebration of multi-cultural heritage and a nation’s diversity.
Hailing from Israel, Idan Raichel introduces his unique music project to the pier. Called the Idan Raichel Project, this collaborative music venture brings together more than 85 musicians from around the world to sing and perform songs written by Raichel.
“It’s not a band and it’s not a singer-songwriter album,” Raichel said of the group’s work. “Every album became like a compilation of work.”
The project began seven years ago when Raichel — influenced by his family’s Eastern European roots and the population of Ethiopian Jews in Israel — invited nearly 70 friends and music colleagues to his studio in his parents’ basement to help him record a demo.
Raichel intentionally blends sounds from many music styles into his songs, drawing largely from Ethiopian rhythms and the varied styles of the project’s collaborators.
“We’re all immigrants who came during the years to Israel,” Raichel said. “We’re the structure of the Israeli society.”
Raichel’s music does not conform to the same structure as the catchy pop music that fills Israel’s airwaves. Instead, it’s considered part of the word music genre, something that Raichel was worried the Israeli community would not take to.
“What makes it very exciting for us is it’s the first time it’s the music of the minorities on the Israeli charts,” he said. “It’s become the music of the mainstream of Israel.”
With 16 hits in Israel, Raichel has taken the project global, bringing it first to Ethiopia, where many of the artists were born, and then the rest of the world.
Not all 85 artists can travel at one time, but Raichel brings a selection of them with him on tour, arranging the stage so that no one performer becomes the focal point for the show.
“I thought it would be nice to put myself as the director or producer of the show or these albums and in this way it gives me a lot of options to have great musicians from all over singing with me or joining the band,” he said.
Raichel is always looking for new artists to join the group, searching in bars, villages and even deserts for talented musicians.
The last time he performed in San Francisco he even found a violinist on the street and brought him to the show.
“We just found a violin street musician and it was amazing,” he said. “You know, two hours later he performed with us to 2,000 people. It was very spontaneous.”
To contrast Raichel’s European and African blend is the second performer of the night, Elijah Emanuel, with his Latino and reggae grooves.
A native of Panama, Emanuel sings in both English and Spanish and his music explores the mixed cultural background of many Latinos.
“Panama is unique in that you can see so clearly in its people the triumvirate cultural heritage of ‘Latin America,’” he said, explaining the African, European and Indigenous cultural backgrounds. “Most so called ‘Latinos and Latinas’ have no idea that they spring from such a deep and multi-faceted well of culture and history.”
Emanuel’s newest CD is titled “Tres Sangres,” or “Three Bloods,” and seeks to show that people are a blend of many backgrounds.
Both Emanuel and Raichel have created music that blurs national and linguistic lines to reach a global audience.
“I’m not attached to language,” Emanuel said. “It’s the intention behind the words that counts.”