Aug 27, 2009

Matisyahu is back to crowd surfing

The Associated Press writes about Matisyahu and the release of his new album, along with the metamorphosis he has undergone the past few years reinventing himself.

"It's not really any longer about me being the Hasidic reggae guy," he says an interview. "I'm informed by Hassidism and Judaism and reggae music, but it's not that black and white, and it's not that simple."

The early reaction? Not always cheers in Crown Heights, the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn where he lives in a modest apartment with his wife and two young sons.

"Just yesterday I was walking down the street and some kid was walking by me. He's like, 'Matis, stick to the reggae!' I was like, 'Ahhgh!'" he recalls.

Matisyahu, 30, pays any hecklers no heed. An underground curiosity-turned-mainstream star, he's not about to remain in his unusual genre of one.

"I think the vast majority of people that respect what I do are willing to move with me. I think it's not so much about genres or styles of music as it is about expressing the emotion or the idea," he says. "Whatever allows you to do that, whatever style, as long as it's authentic."

Matisyahu was initially seen as a musical oddity when he emerged five years ago, an Orthodox Jew in a flat-brim black hat and bushy beard who loved hip-hop beats and sang dancehall reggae in a Jamaican accent. Seeing him for the first time, you could be forgiven for thinking it was all a Sacha Baron Cohen skit.

His new song "One Day", which seems to be the emerging hit from the new album, is a song easy to like. It has been a while since he did anything noteworthy, but perhaps he needed the time to work through all his issues and come out the way he wanted.

To support the new album, Matisyahu is hitting the road, which presents a challenge for a devout Orthodox Jew: No Friday night shows, the need for kosher food backstage, and avoiding physical contact with women not his wife. He says it takes focus to steer clear of temptations.

"You have so much available to you — the whole sex drugs and rock 'n' roll thing. If you let yourself go a little bit, then it's like this landslide," he says.

Stage-diving — something he abandoned for religious reasons — is back, however. He says he has always struggled with that particular interpretation of the rules.

There's also another reason.

"It's such a fun thing to do," he says with a smile.


  1. I thought the lyrics "it's not about
    win or lose
    because we all lose
    when they feed on the souls of the innocent" fit more with John Lennon than last and this week's parsha.
    It's particularly odd that until recently he was a member of a group that is on the fat right of the Israeli political spectrum.

  2. Maybe that is why he is no longer Lubavitch.


  4. I don't know if you want me to say this publicly, but let me tell you a story. Your mother is an artist, and while frum, has always had ecclectic tastes in love, life and art. She went thru a long period of absolutely loving regge. One evening I returned from work, and with the kids in the house so she wasn't alone, she and a Satmar friend of ours were going thru her Bob Marley cd's and records that he wanted to borrow and copy for his collection. We laughed about it the other night at a chasina.

  5. מול העינם -
    There is major difference between divinely mandated war and other wars.

    On a different note, what struck me about the song was that the "One Day" is the day we daven for everyday, and specially on RH in Malchiyos:
    ביום ההוא יהיה ה אחד ושמו אחד


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