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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Will you pronounce your name for me?

Mr. IDAN RAICHEL (Music Producer, Israel): It's actually RYE-kell with phlegm (makes noise), but if you not manage with the (makes noise), you can say whatever you want and it's really okay.

HANSEN: But Raichel. Raichel, that's easier for me to do.

Mr. RAICHEL: Yeah, that's very good, yes, whatever.

HANSEN: My (makes noise) isn't authentic.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: His name may be difficult to say, but his music is irresistible. Israeli music producer, Idan Raichel, works with many musicians of different races and religions from around the world. So far he has produced music by more than 90 artists. And he's created a unique global sound that he calls the Idan Raichel Project.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man: (Singing in foreign language)

HANSEN: It all began when Raichel started to play the accordion at the age of nine because he loved gypsy music. By the time he was 18 he was serving a mandatory military stint in the Israeli army. Now at 31 he's a platinum-selling artist. He joins us in the studio now to tell us about the Idan Raichel Project's latest CD called "Within My Walls." Welcome to the program, Idan.

Mr. RAICHEL: Hello, hello.

HANSEN: Ninety artists.

Mr. RAICHEL: Yes.

HANSEN: Do you pick them? Do they pick you?

Mr. RAICHEL: The casting work is very, very fascinating. I see myself like a director of many, many scenes. We are 90 musicians, the youngest is 16 years old and the eldest are 64, 79, 83 and 89 years old.

HANSEN: Wow.

Mr. RAICHEL: Yeah. For those of the listeners who are not familiar with the Israeli society, we're all kind of immigrants. So we have singers from the Ethiopian community in Israel and musicians from the Moroccan community. And we are very proud to have all these singers joining us by MySpace or by just writing to our Web site. So we have singers from Colombia, from Rwanda, from Cape Verde. So it's become like a huge project.

HANSEN: Let's talk about the singer that you have…

Mr. RAICHEL: Yes.

HANSEN: …from Colombia, Marta Gomez.

Mr. RAICHEL: Yes.

HANSEN: And it's the opening song that she sings on your CD, "Todas Las Palabras."

(Soundbite of song, "Todas Las Palabras")

Ms. MARTA GOMEZ (Singer): (Singing in foreign language)

HANSEN: First of all, how did you meet Marta Gomez?

Mr. RAICHEL: Marta Gomez, I've heard her beautiful voice and compilation of world music. And I wrote her and I introduced myself. And she was so open-minded and she invited me to come to record with her. So, in this track you can find, like, Marta Gomez from Colombia. And the drummer is Franco Pinna from Argentina. Biancolo Segal (ph), he's playing the Iranian tar.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. RAICHEL: It's very important that the album - all the tracks will sound organic.

HANSEN: How hard is that to do given that you want the CD to flow and it does? I mean, it has movement. It has emotional energy. But essentially you're doing this with little bits and pieces that have been created at different times and different spaces. How do you keep your ear on the ball?

Mr. RAICHEL: You can compare it to like a huge stage opera - stage. In every second there are so many actors sometimes and the set is so big and colorful and so many singers. And the director job is just to focus each time to get the focus on someone else, but it's all happening all the time. And you're not like being exhausted. I saw these 100 singers and musicians all - you know, and my -I have such a headache, you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. RAICHEL: It just has to be like a good meal that had its own level.

HANSEN: Tell us about the singer that you have from Cape Verde. I want to pronounce her name properly.

Mr. RAICHEL: Mayra Andrade.

HANSEN: Mayra Andrade. She sings a song, "With My Eyes Shut."

(Soundbite of song, "With My Eyes Shut")

Ms. MAYRA ANDRADE (Singer): (Singing in foreign language)

Mr. RAICHEL: Mayra Andrade, one of the most beautiful vocalists. She's keeping her old folk roots or folk music. There is a saying in Hebrew, (Hebrew Spoken). You should know where you came from if you want to know where you're heading to. So you should your keep your own roots to be strong. And this thing you can really see in Mayra Andrade that she speaks the old school Portuguese dialect. And of course she sings here in the old.

(Soundbite of song, "With My Eyes Shut")

Ms. ANDRADE: (Singing in foreign language)

Mr. RAICHEL: We recorded in a hotel conference room. We build there a studio like in four hours, and we recorded there and she did really, really great.

HANSEN: One other singer on here, African. She sings in Swahili.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. SAMI YUSUF (Singer): (Singing in foreign language)

Mr. RAICHEL: Sami, her roots is from Rwanda and Uganda. And the main challenge in this song was to have a Rwandese singer, but not to sound it as African-Swahili singer.

Ms. YUSUF: (Singing in foreign language)

Mr. RAICHEL: She wrote her own lyrics to a very Eastern European original, but very original music that (unintelligible), but very essence of the Eastern European classical roots that I have in my house.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. RAICHEL: My family is from Russia.

HANSEN: Your family is from Russia.

Mr. RAICHEL: Yeah.

HANSEN: And you have a head of dreadlocks that just wraps and wraps and wraps around you. And, you know, a little like Medusa, but not quite as scary.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: You talked about Arab singers, Christian singers, Jewish singers and you work with everybody. When you tour, particularly in the Middle East, and you have Arab and Christian singers, the blend that you have in the band, how do things go when you're out on the road?

Mr. RAICHEL: This is one of the main ideas of the project that we have these Arabic singers, the Christian singers, that some of them are super right wing, some are super left wing. So we are still on stage. Sometimes we want to - we are so angry about each other. But we're going on stage, we're doing this concert and this is like to live as neighbors.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man (Singer): (Singing in foreign language)

HANSEN: The Idan Raichel Project's latest CD, "Within My Walls," is out now on the Cumbancha record label. And you can hear full songs from The Idan Raichel Project at nprmusic.org.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man: (Singing in foreign language)

HANSEN: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man: (Singing in foreign language)

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