Israeli Idan Raichel and Malian guitar virtuoso Vieux Farka Touré first met at an airport in Germany in 2008 while both were on tour. From this chance encounter an artistic kinship was born, culminating in an unscripted recording session that took place one afternoon in November 2010 in a small Tel Aviv studio. Joined by Israeli bassist Yossi Fine and Malian calabash player Souleymane Kane, Idan and Vieux improvised a masterful selection of songs that capture the unbridled creativity and inspired collaboration of these four brilliant musicians. The Touré-Raichel Collective was formed and the songs they recorded are the foundation of the album The Tel Aviv Session.
Idan Raichel is a well known pop star in Israel. The music he creates with his international band The Idan Raichel Project unites African, Middle Eastern, Eastern European traditions into an accessible global pop amalgam.
Idan has long been a fan of the legendary Ali Farka Touré, Vieux’s father and main musical inspiration. Upon meeting Vieux, Idan said “I have a dream, I will leave my band and come join yours as a keyboard player. I don’t care if I get paid or anything, I just want to follow you around and see how you do it.” Idan proved his sincerity when he hopped on a flight to Cartagena, Spain to join Vieux in concert. “Going back to being a side musician and taking that opportunity to learn from Vieux was a magical experience for me,” Idan says.
Vieux recalls, “When I first met Idan he looked like a crazy hippie to me. But he carried himself with a lot of confidence. He was cool and relaxed. I knew there must be something powerful about this guy. Then the minute we first played together, I knew that I was right. He has deep talent and a deep soul.”
Two years later, Idan became the curator of a world music series at the Tel Aviv Opera House, and he invited Vieux to perform the first concert. It was a magical night, with Vieux and Idan trading riffs backed by Vieux’s full band. When the unforgettable concert was over, Idan wanted more. “You know what, let’s find a studio and jam,” he proposed, and the next day they met at a friend’s studio in south Tel Aviv. Idan, Vieux, Yossi and Souleymane from Vieux’s band played together.
Vieux’s manager, Eric Herman of Modiba, was in the studio and remembers, “I was thinking to myself, ‘Alright, this is fun, a really nice little jam.’ Soon there were two or three tracks and I started to think ‘Hmm, maybe there will be something here we could use.’ After about five or six more amazing songs were laid down I said, ‘Wait a minute, we have a full album here!”
“Because there were no expectations,” Eric explains, “it was really the most fluid and pleasant recording experience. They all just played until they got tired. As it was unfolding, it was pretty clear to everyone something special was happening and that’s why it kept going and going and by the time it was done I knew that we had a really good record. What struck me was the nakedness of it. So many people agonize over all the aspects of a recording; everything is premeditated in virtually all recording sessions that I’ve been to. And this was entirely freeform, an open exchange.”
Idan began to edit the tracks, trimming some sections and fleshing out others. There were some people that they wished had been there that day, so they decided to ask them to record some additional parts. Singer Cabra Casey, an Israeli of Ethiopian heritage, wrote lyrics in the Ethiopian language Tigrit and sing on the song “Ane Nahatka”. Yankele Segal played the long-necked Persian tar on “Kfar”. Mark Eliyahu added the haunting sound of the kamanche, an Azerbaijani fiddle, to “Alem”. The result is The Tel Aviv Session, an album that merits listening to.