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August 20, 2014, 2:46 am

Musician’s mix of sounds yields magic

Ravid Kahalani, who grew up to a traditional Yemenite family in Israel, learned the language and the traditional chants of his origin and extended his influences to the areas of blues, soul and jazz from West Africa and America as well as classical opera singing. When Kahalani joined his vocal forces with highly talented and insightful bassist-composer Omer Avital in 2010, finally, Kahalani’s original Yemenite songs, his love for jazz, blues and African music came together in one musical project, and the concept of Yemen Blues — a supergroup of top musicians from New York, Israel and Uruguay — was born. It is the powerful outcome of Kahalani’s musical journey from his Yemenite roots to western influences — a joyful oasis in the middle of the desert. An ultimate celebration of colorful grooves, the pure happiness and deep emotion of Yemenite singing, an innovative sound with a potent message, Yemen Blues is “a language you will understand no matter where you come from,” explains Kahalani of beautiful complex grooves. “It is my origin and my influences all together as well as meeting with this group of amazing musicians.”

Yemen Blues is a unique ensemble that features Kahalani (vocals/gimbri), Omer Avital (oud/bass), Galia Hai (viola), Yoed Nir (cello), Hadar Noiberg (flute), Itamar Borochov (trumpet), Rafi Malkiel (trombone), Rony Iwryn (Latin percussion) and Itamar Doari (Middle Eastern percussion). Currently on tour in North America, Yemen Blues is a fascinating oasis for a genuine encounter between “Yemenite music and Black music from Africa and America. They fuse ‘ancient roots with contemporary sound…,’ including blues, jazz, soul and funk,” noted Yemen Blues is an original and fascinating meeting of traditional Yemenite melodies and the world of blues, jazz and funk. 

“Well, it started three years ago when I met Omer,” said Kahalani. “The connetion between me and Omer was amazing, and we called some friends and they came and we kept jamming and we found ourselves in the studios, with like, nine people. It was just pure fun to sit in the studio and play this music. As a child, I was singing Yeminite chants in the synagoge or at home. Later on, I started to sing the different genres. I sang the blues, I sang some soul, funk — and I really felt at home.”

Since the ensemble’s formation in 2010 — and their subsequent reception for delivering a breathtaking live performance at the WOMEX (short for WOrld Music EXpo) and Babel Med Music fairs — Yemen Blues is quickly becoming an international sensation. “Ravid Kahalani creates a canvas printed both with deep emotions when his rasping laments tear open the heavens,” raved a World Connection Agencyreview. “But also with popular jubilation when the percussions, the oud, the cello and the brass instruments interweave in a harmonious dance that is complex and resolutely modern.”

Yemen Blues’ North American Tour 2012 debuts at the Painted Bride Art Center, 230 Vine Street, on Saturday, Jan. 7, 7 p.m.Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 day of show. To purchase tickets or more information, call (215) 925-9914 or visit


Contact Staff Writer Bobbi Booker at (215) 893-5749 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .