Matisyahu lets reggae celebrate his faith - an article
Matisyahu lets reggae celebrate his faithBy MICHAEL D. CLARK
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle
Matisyahu does not sport the flashy duds and jewelry of your everyday pop superstar. Instead of gold chains around his neck, he sports a long beard and simple horn-rimmed glasses. Instead of the latest styles by chic hip-hop fashion lines, he prefers the streimel and wool bekeshe, the hat and long tailored coat that are common to his Hasidic Jewish faith.
In the mainstream reggae world of Daddy Yankee and Sean Paul, Matisyahu (born Matthew Miller) clearly is an oddity. Dig a little deeper, though, and faith-filled discipline in his lyrics is like classic reggae through and through.
Take reggae patriarch Bob Marley: His devotion to the Rastafarian religious movement permeated his rhythmic chants. Fast-forward 30 years and Matisyahu's approach on his debut album Shake Off the Dust... Arise and the new Youth, released yesterday, is not all that different in spirit. Rather than Rastafarianism, his music celebrates his faith, Hasidic Judaism.
"I think Marley's adherence to his beliefs is part of the reason why I was attracted to him and this music," says Matisyahu, 26. He'll perform a sold-out show at Warehouse Live this Sunday.
"I sort of have this holistic image of him in my mind. He woke up in the morning, cooked breakfast for everyone and talked with his family and made music.
"Religion was very much a part of all of that."
Still, a Hasidic reggae star? Credit music fans for keeping open-minded about Matisyahu.
Two years ago Shake off the Dust... Arise was considered little more than a novelty release on the small New York label J-Dub. Last year's concert recording Live At Stubb's and a buzzy South by Southwest Music Conference appearance officially launched the cult of Matisyahu.
Recorded at the small amphitheater behind Stubb's Bar-B-Q in downtown Austin, Live at Stubb's sold more than 500,000 copies and peaked at No. 32 on Billboard's pop chart. Highlight song King Without a Crown also made a splash on forward-thinking rock and college stations; the track reached No. 7 on U.S. modern rock chart.
Those numbers are more in line with the hip-hop-tinged reggaetón or dancehall forms of reggae that have become popular recently. Traditional reggae, even by established international reggae stars, rarely breaks out beyond the world music charts.
Other artists are looking to capture his vibe. Rock-rap group P.O.D recently recruited Matisyahu to lend vocals to several songs on its latest album Testify.
But the effect on Matisyahu's day-to-day has been minimal.
"My lifestyle is different, but I think philosophically the Hasidic core is not very confining," says Matisyahu who, along with his wife and their son belong to the Lubavitch Hasidic Community in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. "I pray three times a day, I eat kosher, I don't do drugs and I don't hang out with women after shows.
"But this is already a part of who I am. I don't even think about it. I think Hasidic culture and Judaism is cool."(taken from chron.com)