August 25, 2009

GOD SAID, MATISYAHU, KILL ME A SONG:

That Old Testament Sound (Lia Grainger, 8/24/09, National Post)

As is often the case with reggae music, Matisyahu's songs contain religious references, though he draws on Judaism rather than Rastafarianism. He feels that the two religions, rather than conflicting, complete a circle, because both make use of the stories in the Old Testament. "When I was 14 I started listening to Bob Marley and was hearing what I considered Jewish phases, but in a different context," Matisyahu says. "Bob Marley was singing about these powerful feelings for Zion, and it made me want to discover Judaism on my own terms."

The journey towards becoming a practising Hasidic Jew was not one that started at birth for Matisyahu. Born Matthew Miller and raised in White Plains, N.Y., he was brought up a Reconstructionist Jew, and spent much of his teenage years as a devoted fan of the jam band Phish, following them on tour around the country. It was a semester abroad in Israel that led him to adopt Orthodox Judaism, after which he gave up music completely, opting instead to devote himself completely to religious practice and study.

"It's sort of like the story of Abraham sacrificing his son," says Matisyahu of his time without music. "The son was his ultimate creation, but then in the end he doesn't have to kill him. It's the same thing that happened to me. Music was my main thing, and I wanted to show God and myself that I would be willing to give up everything." He says that after two or three years of barely even listening to music, opportunities arose to perform, and he decided to return to his life's other passion.

Once Matisyahu started performing, his rise was quick, and though his religion is quite visible when he's onstage - he often wears the traditional flat-top hat and long black jacket to perform - critics and fans came to realize that his music was not a gimmick.


One of the nice things about the Internet Archives' live music collection is there's a bunch of Matisyahu



Posted by Orrin Judd at August 25, 2009 8:03 AM
blog comments powered by Disqus
« NOW IF ONLY THEY FOLLOW THE NORWAY MODEL: | Main | THE BIGGEST HERO TO COME OUT OF NOTTINGHAM SINCE ROBIN HOOD: »