Exhilarating! That may be the best word to describe the concert by the members of the Touré-Raichel Collective. Even before coming on stage, the set was alluring, feature a grand piano and electronic keyboards on the left and a bass guitar on the right. In between was a guitar and the lovely round shape of the calabash. When the performers came on stage they immediately lit it up with their energy and vibrant sound. Idan Raichel took the lead in introducing the band. Telling the audience about his chance meeting of Vieux Farka Touré in a European airport, and their subsequent jam sessions in Tel Aviv, Raichel invited us to imagine ourselves in his living room. The musicians then proceeded to jam. Raichel on piano was utterly amazing, producing so many sounds and rhythms from the piano that it was hard to realize he was playing just a single instrument. Putting at times one hand inside the piano to dampen the keys while he played with the other hand, Raichel produced deep, resonate sounds that were barely recognizable as coming from a piano. Touré on guitar wove in intricate riffs on his guitar, repeating phrases with incredible speed and lightness.
Accompanying these two amazing musicians was Souleymane Kane on the calabash, a hollow gourd that he played with thin sticks and with the heels of his palm. The energetic beats made me want to stand up and dance, but they were simultaneously tempered by the blues inflected low notes of Amit Carmeli’s decisive bass lines. The four musicians ranged over many forms of music, sometimes singing together or alone. Carmeli did some amazing things with his voice, singing in ways reminiscent of an ecstatic qawwali singer. At one point, Raichel invited a special guest to the stage. It was India Arie! She came on and danced and sang and played the flute, adding a perfect counterpoint to the rest of the group. I only wish she could have stayed on longer. Happily, she returned for a final ecstatic number at the end.
– Sara McClintock
Sara McClintock is an Associate Professor in the Department of Religion at Emory University. She is a scholar of Indian and Tibetan Buddhist philosophical and literary texts, with a special interest in reading, rhetoric and interpretation. Her work to date has included studies of Buddhist metaphysics and epistemology with particular attention the tradition’s rhetorical construction of rationality in the face of the Buddhist doctrine of essencelessness. She regularly teaches an undergraduate seminar on women in Buddhism, and she is also involved in the promotion of Tibetan arts and culture programming at Emory University through a grant from the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation.