Twenty years ago, when David Chevan, raised in a Conservative Jewish household, met Warren Byrd, an African American pianist who grew up singing in a church choir, they had an idea: to fuse the music of their two musical and cultural heritages into something completely new.

David Chevan
David Chevan (Photo: Fletcher Oakes)

The result, The Afro-Semitic Experience, is a sophisticated musical mashup of styles and influences, from fresh takes on Jewish liturgical music to funk, jazz and gospel. In their words, “It’s Charles Mingus sitting in with a klezmer band.” Throughout this episode, you’ll hear highlights of their work—featured songs include “Adon Olam,” “Shout Out From The Mountain,” “The Road That Heals The Splintered Soul,” “Fon Der Khupe,” “The Creator Has a Master Plan” and “We’ll Understand It Better By and By.”

Warren Byrd
Warren Byrd (Photo: Fletcher Oakes)

It’s more than music, however. For Chevan and Byrd, The Afro-Semitic Experience is an experiment in bringing people together. On Sept. 15, the band will perform at the JCC of the North Shore in Marblehead (get tickets here). To get us ready for the “experience,” they spoke with us about their long-term collaboration, wide array of musical influences and how the creative approach of iconic filmmaker Akira Kurosawa shapes how they view their process.

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Edited by Jesse Ulrich, with music by Ryan J. Sullivan.