MADRID — Idan Raichel, who was recently voted Israel’s musician of the decade in polls conducted by Israeli news media, is no ordinary ambassador for his country.
Tucking into a piece of bacon during a breakfast interview, he explained: “Instead of kosher, I prefer to keep it tasty.”
Mr. Raichel might not conform, but his views have never veered toward disrespect. He said that he admires Orthodox Jews — even those who have criticized him for using religious texts to compose his lyrics.
“I use the Bible because all the most important and beautiful things have already been said, so that the best that I can probably do is repeat them,” he said. “There is simply no greater love song than what you find in the Book of Psalms.”
Mr. Raichel’s music, however, goes well beyond repurposing ancient verses.
Since the release of his debut album “The Idan Raichel Project” in January 2003, he has worked with about 100 different musicians and singers to fuse traditional Middle Eastern instruments with electronic sounds, and to combine Jewish music with that of regions ranging from West Africa to Latin America and India. And while Hebrew dominates his lyrics, his songs are peppered with languages including Arabic, Amharic, Swahili, Spanish and Creole Portuguese. His first album was a commercial success, selling 200,000 copies.