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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Brooklyn's beatbox is so brilliant

Brooklyn's beatbox is so brilliant

Evening Standard (London), May 23, 2006 by CHRIS ELWELL-SUTTON

Matisyahu ..... Hammersmith Palais

I MUST admit that I found it hard at first to swallow the notion of an Hasidic Jew in full Orthodox dress singing reggae with a West Indian accent.

But Matisyahu, who has quickly become a huge star in the States, is no novelty act.

The Brooklyn resident, who spent much of his youth performing as a human beatbox in local hip-hop and reggae clubs, loped on stage with the air of serenity and humility one might expect from a deeply religious man, provoking muted cheers as he broke into eerie, ethereal song.

His minor key, high pitch and seriousness made his opening song ironically reminiscent of an Islamic call to prayer.

His versatile three-piece band suddenly picked the pace up and got the packed Palais rocking to the bouncing reggae beat of Time Of Your Song, a track that showed off the range and quality of a sweet, pure voice that wouldn't be out of place on an old Jamaican "lovers' rock" record.

Filling the large stage easily, Matisyahu was extraordinarily mobile for a man of 6'5", spinning round the stage like a dervish, removing his black frock coat when he began to overheat, and leaping atop a huge speaker stack during guitar solos.

The combination of his unique voice, rocky guitar riffs and throbbing dub bass lines kept the crowd moving, although a few tracks had a an air of lazily catchy commercial reggae. More interesting were his tracks that spoke of religious devotion, relating to concepts like Zion and Babylon - staples of Rastafarianinfluenced reggae, but imbued with new meaning in this context.

Particularly effective was Warrior, a meditative track that saw him lament the wanderings of the Jewish people and yearn for the coming of the Messiah, followed by spectacular human beatbox session.

Matisyahu is a brilliant, natural performer.


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