Idan Raichel with Alicia Keys

Idan Raichel performs with Alicia Keys and Palestinian musician Ali Amr


Israeli pianist, singer and composer Idan Raichel, along with Palestinian singer and qanun player Ali Amr, came to New York over the weekend to perform with Alicia Keys, Saturday, September 27, in Central Park as part of the Global Citizen Festival. The event featured artists including Jay Z, Beyoncé, Sting, No Doubt and Carrie Underwood, and appearances by numerous global dignitaries and world leaders.

For an audienceof 60,000, Keys, Raichel and Amr performed “We Are Here,” a new song Keys wrote to unite her audience in a global effort for peace, and to encourage young people to play an active role in making the world a better place.

Raichel’s performance with Keys and Amr was extraordinary, not only because it took place in the aftermath of an increase in tensions between Israel and Gaza this past summer, but also because it marked the first time Raichel has performed at such a high-profile event with a Palestinian from the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Israeli musician Idan Raichel performs with Alicia Keys and Palestinian musician Ali Amr in Central Park, live on BBCRaichel first met Alicia Keys when they performed together in Tel Aviv in July 2013, striking up a friendship that led to her invitation for Raichel to join her on stage on Saturday. He says of the performance, “Unfortunately, in these difficult days that we are going through in the Middle East, the voice of the artists is heard less and less. Especially now, international performances by artists from the Middle East, are important to raise awareness and tolerance, and to build bridges between peoples and cultures.”

Ali Amr is a master of the qanun, an Arabic instrument with 72 strings. He was one of the first Palestinian students accepted to Berkelee College of Music, a point of regional pride that led to a private concert for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. He leads the Ali Amr Experiment, a five-piece group that fuses jazz, Latin and Arabic music, and has recorded and/or performed with Bobby McFerrin, Chick Corea, Quincy Jones, Esperanza Spalding, Alejandro Sanz and others.

According to Amr, “I represent that Palestinians are a helpful, giving people. We want to overcome war and find peace. I believe music is peace.” Raichel, echoes this sentiment,: “When I was in third grade our school teacher taught us one Hebrew song a week and made us fall in love with poetry. These are songs I remember to this day, and they are the foundations of my work. I wonder what would have happened if in addition to Hebrew poetry we were studying other countries’ cultures as well— Syrian poet, an Iranian screenplay writer, a Palestinian singer, and, in the same breath, I wonder what would have happened if our neighbors would have learned about our culture. In spite of the hardships, Ali and I are trying to build a musical bridge, upon which we can all attempt to walk.”

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