February 12, 2005

"NO QUESTION HE'S UNIQUE"

Singer finds a balance of reggae, religion (Marian Liu, Feb. 10, 2005, San Jose Mercury News)

Towering at 6 feet 3 and wearing all black, Matisyahu, a Hasidic Jew, stands out in any crowd. But when he jumps on stage to perform ``his'' music -- reggae -- there's no question he's unique. [...]

Born Matthew Miller in Pennsylvania, he wasn't always a Hasidic Jew. He grew up in Berkeley and later New York, attending but resisting Hebrew school.

As a teenager, he was a Dead head with dreadlocks. Then at 16, he went to Israel and re-connected with Judaism. But upon returning, he fell back to his old ways, dropped out of high school, then followed Phish on its national tour.

When he came home, his worried parents shipped him off to a ``wilderness school'' in Oregon, where he started to rap and beat box during open-mic sessions.

After returning to New York, religion became a bigger priority as he started attending the synagogue Carlebach Shul on the Upper West Side. Then one day he met a rabbi in the park, which led to changing his name to Matisyahu, the Hebrew equivalent of Matthew, meaning gift from God.

What brought him to religion also brought him to reggae -- the passion, truth and honesty at the root of the genre.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 12, 2005 6:00 AM
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