The formation and success of The Touré-Raichel Collective, the band led by Israeli keyboardist and songwriter Idan Raichel and Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré—icons in their own countries and abroad—is a reminder of the unique power of music to bridge geographic, ethnic, political and religious differences. As a follow up to their acclaimed 2012 debut, The Tel Aviv Session, the group will release a new album, The Paris Session, September 30 on the Cumbancha label. The Touré-Raichel Collective will tour the U.S. this fall; please see below for an itinerary.
Although a collaboration between an Israeli Jew and a Malian Muslim has unavoidable political implications, what inspired Touré and Raichel to work together was not the potential to make a statement; they simply connected as artists and friends seeking to find musical common ground.
They met for the first time by chance, in 2008 at the Berlin airport, where they expressed mutual admiration and a desire to get together and play. Touré’s father, the late great Ali Farka Touré, was one of Raichel's musical heroes and inspirations. Raichel invited Touré to Israel, where they assembled a few musicians and convened an unscripted, improvised jam session. The chemistry between Touré and Raichel was instant and profound. They assumed the name The Touré-Raichel Collective and used the material from that first gathering as the basis for an album, The Tel Aviv Session, which found poignant, musically beautiful common ground between the artists’ cultures.
Since they recorded their first album in Tel Aviv, the plan was to make the follow-up in Bamako. But the latter was deemed too risky at the time, so the artists traveled to France to record. For three days Raichel, who produced, and Touré sequestered themselves at Studio Malambo in the outskirts of Paris where they were joined by a number of special guests. While The Paris Session is the result of the same freeform approach that was used in the first album, this time around they decided to feature more songs with vocals, a wider range of instrumentation, and appearances by musician friends such as Senegalese artist Daby Touré on bass, Israeli trumpeter Niv Toar, Malian singer Seckouba Diabate and others. Touré and Raichel have honed their interplay over the course of multiple tours together, but the album possesses the same spontaneous, heartfelt magic as its predecessor.
Due to popular demand, The Touré-Raichel Collective has undertaken multiple international tours and performed on some of the world's most prestigious stages. In June of this year, Touré returned to Israel to join Raichel's band The Idan Raichel Project in a performance at Masada, an archeological site of immense significance in Jewish history.
One highlight of the recording is a rendition of the song “Diaraby,” written by Ali Farka Touré and featured on his landmark collaboration with Ry Cooder, Talking Timbuktu. Raichel says that there was a period of six or seven years during which he had listened to the song nearly every day. Upon sharing a stage with Vieux for the first time, Raichel suggested they play the elder Touré’s song together, and doing so brought tears to Raichel’s eyes. He describes feeling “a big, big circle from Ali Farka Touré in Niafunke to me in Tel Aviv, then going back to Ali’s son.”
More broadly Raichel says of his collaboration with Touré, “I’m a musician from Israel, and I will always make Israeli music. And Vieux Farka Touré for me represents the spirit of Mali. I think world music artists by definition are people who reflect the soundtrack of the place they come from. I think that this collaboration between Mali and Israel—and remember we don’t even have diplomatic relations between the two countries—creates a new imaginary island located somewhere between Bamako and Tel Aviv.”
Touré says, “Idan comes from Israel, he’s Jewish. I come from Mali, I'm a Muslim. This project shows the point where there are no real differences between us. Working on these recordings we learn a lot about each other.”
It all works, first and foremost, because Touré, Raichel and their guests manage to make singular music. Reviewing The Tel Aviv Session for NPR’s “All Things Considered,” Banning Eyre wrote, “If Raichel and Touré had planned a collaboration, it's hard to imagine that they could have topped the casual charm of this impromptu encounter.” Hosting the Collective on WNYC’s “Soundcheck,” John Schaefer called the debut recording “one of the year’s most surprising and infectious world music releases.” Wall Street Journal rock and pop music critic Jim Fusilli has described the collaboration as “not so much cross-cultural exercise as an exploration of common ground.”
The Touré-Raichel Collective U.S. Tour Dates
NOV 07 @ The Valley Performing Arts Center – Northridge, CA [LINK]
NOV 08 @ Nourse Theater – San Francisco, CA [LINK]
NOV 09 @ The Center for the Arts – Grass Valley, CA [LINK]
NOV 11 @ Musical Instruments Museum – Phoenix, AZ [LINK]
NOV 12 @ Boulder Theater – Boulder, CO [LINK]
NOV 14 @ Peery’s Egyptian Theater – Ogden, UT [LINK]
NOV 15 @ Meany Hall – Seattle, WA [LINK]
NOV 18 @ Symphony Space – New York, NY [LINK]
NOV 19 @ Weinberg Center for the Arts – Frederick, MD [LINK]
NOV 20 @ Quick Center for the Arts – Fairfield, CT [LINK]
NOV 21 @ Koerner Hall – Toronto, ON [LINK]
NOV 22 @ Swyer Theatre at The Egg – Albany, NY [LINK]
NOV 23 @ Zoellner Arts Center – Bethlehem, Pennsylvania [LINK]
Vieux Farka Touré is often called “The Hendrix of the Sahara.” Despite his father's wishes that he join the army, Vieux taught himself guitar in secret and stubbornly chose to pursue his dream of a career in music and further his father's legacy. After earning his undergraduate degree from Mali's Institute National Des Arts and a graduate degree from The Conservatory of Bamako, Vieux quickly emerged from his father's shadow and established himself as an innovative, world-class musician and activist in his own right. In his young career he has released seven critically acclaimed albums, toured the world many times over and collaborated with some of the world's biggest musical stars, including Dave Matthews, Lauryn Hill, Derek Trucks and Ry Cooder. In 2010 he was invited to represent Mali at the opening ceremony of the World Cup in South Africa, where he performed to a cumulative global audience of over one billion people. In 2013 he released his latest solo album, Mon Pays, as a direct, peaceful and uplifting response to the violent invasion of his homeland by foreign, extremist militants in 2012 and 2013. The album was roundly praised around the world and topped the CMJ World Music Chart for 2013. A tenacious philanthropist throughout his career, Vieux has worked diligently to assist his fellow Malians through his Fight Malaria campaign and by raising money throughout his tours for the refugees of the recent conflict in Northern Mali. Most recently he founded AMAHREC-SAHEL, a charitable organization providing crucial resources and assistance to impoverished children in the Sahel region of West Africa.
Since 2003, when his song “Bo’ee” became an instant crossover hit that catapulted Idan Raichel and his group The Idan Raichel Project to the top of Israel's pop charts, the keyboardist, songwriter and producer has been a household name in his native land. In 2006, the U.S.-based record label Cumbancha released an eponymous collection of songs from the group’s first two albums, bringing the artist even more international renown. The Idan Raichel Project has headlined some of the world’s most prestigious venues, including New York's Central Park Summer Stage, Apollo Theater, Town Hall and Radio City Music Hall, Los Angeles’ Kodak Theater, the Sydney Opera House, Zenith and Bataclan in Paris, London’s Royal Albert Hall and many international festivals. Raichel has toured and recorded with GRAMMY-winner India.Arie, including performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. for President Obama and his family on the first Martin Luther King, Jr. Day after Obama’s election as well as at the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo, Norway. Last year, Raichel perform a private concert for President Obama during his official visit to Israel. In July 2014, Raichel joined Alicia Keys for a special duet during her sold-out concert at Nokia Stadium in Tel Aviv. One month later, Raichel shared the stage with French star Patrick Bruel. Cumbancha released the Idan Raichel Project's latest album, Quarter to Six, in 2013, which featured guest appearances by Portuguese fado singer Ana Moura, Palestinian-Israeli singer Mira Awad, German counter-tenor Andreas Scholl, Colombia’s Marta Gómez, Vieux Farka Touré and some of Israel’s top emerging singers and musicians.