KENWOOD — A Tuesday lesson with Israeli music icon Idan Raichel at the Little Black Pearl Art and Design Center quickly devolved into an all out jam session and then a rehearsal.
The center, 1060 E. 47th St., invited Raichel while on a Chicago stop of his tour to come in to talk to kids in a music production class Tuesday about his work as a producer that’s given him a chance to duet with Alicia Keys and play a private concert for former President Barack Obama.
“The most important thing in art — it doesn’t matter if it’s cool — is to be brave and make mistakes,” Raichel said.
He played a song that he wrote with an Ethiopian monk to illustrate the power of collaboration in music. He then started to explain some common scales used in Israeli music and that’s when things skittered off into an entirely different direction.
Raichel asked if any students wanted to come up and make up a melody to play around with Middle Eastern scales, and when three students came up and started to freestyle rap, Raichel’s face lit up.
In Israel, Raichel is known for his collaborations across genres, incorporating elements of folk music from around the region as well as electronic and hip hop production styles of the United States, so the kids appeared to have scratched some itch for him.
After just a few minutes, Raichel wanted to stop the lesson entirely and was asking if they could go use the center’s recording studio.
“That was beautiful, we should record this beat,” Raichel said of the song that at the moment was little more than three MCs over a simple piano line.
He then took it further, inviting the more than 20 students to his concert at City Winery later Tuesday night for free.
“If you want to go on stage, I’ll get you a microphone — really,” Raichel said.
At that point, what had started as a lesson became more of rehearsal. Raichel and the students jammed for another 20 minutes before the teachers brought it back to a lesson about music production.
He encouraged the students to explore the music of Israel and other countries to get ideas.
“In Israel, we take a day or two for sampling,” Raichel said. “Take the time to explore different sounds, in production you want to find this element that will make it unique.”
The rest of the class time was spent Googling Arabic flute sounds and Peruvian harps and exchanging notes about how the different melodies could be adapted into a new song.
The Idan Raichel Project was scheduled to play at 8 p.m. Tuesday at City Winery, 1200 W. Randolph St., and ends his U.S. tour Thursday in New York City.