Idan Raichel first met Malian guitar luminary Vieux Farka Toure in a chance encounter at an airport in Germany. Raichel, an Israeli pop star and keyboard player, had admired Toure's work— as well as that of his father, the late Ali Farka Toure — for many years before they crossed paths.
"I just thought it would be amazing to collaborate with him," Raichel says. "I invited him to play at the opera house in Tel Aviv, and he came with his band for an unforgettable evening."
Shortly thereafter, the duo met up in a small recording studio for a short jam session.
"By coincidence, we recorded what we played there for three hours. We actually recorded a mix of Malian rhythms mixed with Israeli melodies — all originals, but very influenced from both our cultures," Raichel says.
That initial jam session was the beginning of a greater collaboration, which is now known as the Toure-Raichel Collective. The duo has recorded a studio album called The Tel Aviv Sessions, which features songs that infuse elements from both of their cultural backgrounds — something that came naturally to the two musicians.
"It was like having two chefs in the kitchen," Raichel says. "At the end of the day, everyone uses the basics: sugar, or salt, or water. So we went to the basics of both of our cultures and we just let the music flow."
The Toure-Raichel Collective played songs from its new album, The Tel Aviv Session, live in NPR's Studio 4A.