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Great playing, no hook

The Idan Raichel Project
The Idan Raichel Project
By the Idan Raichel Project

Cumbancha Records: 2006

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This review first appeared in Turbula in December 2006.

Founded with the noblest of purposes – to bridge Jewish and Arab cultures in the Middle East – and reportedly hugely popular in Israel, the music of the Idan Raichel Project isn't likely to come across as a compelling listen for most American ears.

The music on the band's first international release (apparently drawn from the band's two earlier Israeli releases) is a blending of Israeli, Arab, Ethiopian Jew and South African threads. There are huge swaths of Euro-styled electronica in here as well. And yet, despite all these seemingly intriguing influences, the music is a rather indistinct world music hybrid.

Overall, it has a strong Eastern African sound to it – no doubt a reflection of the heavy Ethiopian influence. And the playing throughout is dynamite – Raichel has gathered a remarkable collection of outstanding instrumentalists.

But there are no songs to get stuck in your head, no refrains to hum along to. There's nothing to give your heart to here, and minus that sort of urgency, it's asking a bit much to expect listneres to get hooked.