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JewishJournal.com

November 29, 2007

‘Inside Idan Raichel’—it’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it

Hello, Ed Begley here for Thomas Edison and the American Jewish Congress

http://www.jewishjournal.com/circuit/article/inside_idan_raichel_its_a_tough_job_but_somebodys_got_to_do_it_20071130

Idan Raichel

Idan Raichel

I never fashioned myself a groupie. Of course, when I first saw Cameron Crowe's "Almost Famous" I spent a moment or two contriving a fantasy about becoming Penny Lane and hitting the road with Mick Jagger or David Bowie. But since I wasn't alive in their heyday, and Kurt Cobain died, and Dave Matthews got married, the dream dissolved.

Sitting on a red velvet couch in a private room with Israeli superstar Idan Raichel, the fantasy was reignited. Energized by his enigmatic presence, the all-black attire, the thick ebony dreadlocks dangling like streamers around him, I was captivated. Sensual, charming and soft-spoken, Raichel is an ethereal rock star. On stage, he performs with his whole body, writhing up and down, striking his keyboard. As much a visionary as he is a musician, the architect of The Idan Raichel Project, a group of vocalists and musicians with roots in Ethiopia, Sudan, South America, Iran and Israel, Raichel has fused the artistry of minority cultures into a unique blend of world music. On his stage, people from disparate backgrounds are unified by a multicultural musical harmony. Their love is music and their message is peace.

During a two-hour performance at UCLA's Royce Hall Nov. 15, where an audience of all ages and ethnicities rushed the stage, The Project rocked a full-house with their exotic, evocative sound: the shattering vocals of Cabra Casay and Lital Gabai channeled the power of unmitigated yearning; Rony Iwryn stunned onlookers with a splashy beat on the water drum, a rhythm he improvised by tapping the surface of the water; Gilad Shmueli drummed people out of their seats with his rumbling boom.

And then there's Idan -- the creator, the composer, the poet. His allure incites hysteria from young girls and garners the respect of an international audience. He proudly represents Israeli society wherever he goes -- and he deftly avoids the politics.

"For me, it's only music and it's only music I did with friends. Nowadays I feel it has lots of side effects," he said. "Mostly when we perform out of Israel, people find it interesting to know about Israeli society; people are fascinated by how people that came from such diversity are singing side by side."

When Idan sings "Bo'ee" ("Come to me"), you listen, believing that if you do, you'll have a front-row seat when he changes the world. With this artist, that may actually prove to be true, and I want to be a groupie for that.

Greening the Earth

I thought suffering from an alcohol addiction was bad, but an oil addiction is worse, according to Gary Ratner, executive director of the American Jewish Congress, who opened for various panelists, including "Internal Combustion" author Edwin Black, at the American Jewish Congress (AJCongress) Thomas Edison Energy Awards at the Four Seasons hotel Nov. 11.

Approaching the hotel, I expected to swim in a sea of suits, but found amid the 240 guests a mix of young professionals, war veterans and firefighters in uniform, who were being honored for their recent services in the Southern California fires. Over cocktails, I mingled with the tall, dreadlocked black activist, Ted Hayes, who combats homelessness and illegal immigration in Los Angeles. He was draped in a knee-length hemp robe, a colorful Rasta-style hat, and wore a long, gold-chained Star of David necklace.

In the Four Seasons banquet hall, decorated with plants, candles nestled in sand and rocks, and chocolate-covered dollar bills, the event publicist summoned me to sit next to a cute, dark-haired young man, whispering in my ear, "maybe it's beshert." Accepting her offer, I plopped down into the single-gal seat, feeling stamped with the Jewish scarlet letter, only to find he's engaged. No matter, because actor and environmental activist, Ed Begley Jr. was presenting the energy awards. I told him I remembered him from the film "Death Becomes Her," but shamefully learned, from him, that it was "She-Devil." He assured me they could be confused because both movies star Meryl Streep.

Begley Jr. added comic relief to the night, commencing his speech about Honda's energy conservation efforts with a clip from the HGTV series "Living With Ed," which showed his wife Rachelle living a green lifestyle with her actor-husband in Studio City (instead of Hollywood or Beverly Hills) and driving a not-so-glamorous electric car.

Watching clips of Honda's innovative hydrogen-powered fuel cell car, I felt guilty for driving my gas-guzzling SUV. Honda and the AJCongress voiced productive suggestions for halting dependence on foreign, Arab oil and bettering the environment. Now, if only the rest of us would catch on ...

-- Celia Soudry, Contributing Writer

group photo
From left: Ed Begley, Jr.; Rachelle Carson; Gary Ratner, executive director, American Jewish Congress; Dan Bonawitz; Pamela Bonawitz; Chris Martin.

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