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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Festival reviews: Rappin' rabbi pogos into town

Festival reviews: Rappin' rabbi pogos into town

The Independent (London), Aug 24, 2006 by Bob Flynn

In the feverish world of the Fringe, Edinburgh's multitude of venues are crammed with the oddest sights and sounds. But the weirdest of all has to be Matisyahu, the Hebrew name adopted by 27- year-old Matthew Miller from Brooklyn or, as he is commonly known since the success of his album, Youth, the rappin' rabbi.

He could easily be mistaken for yet another vaguely offensive joker in Edinburgh's massed comic ranks but Matisyahu, although not a rabbi, is a genuine ultra-Orthodox Jew who has become America's biggest home-grown reggae star and the world's first Hasidic reggae musician.

Looming over the Liquid Room's stage, with his towering frame, long beard and Orthodox clothing - black homburg, coat and prayer shawl - Matisyahu is an unusual sight. But his strident, New York- Jamaican patois and quick-fire lyrics on "Lord Raise Me Up" and "Jerusalem" are engaging.

There is little doubt that Matisyahu lives and breathes this music, ranging across reggae's lilting rhythms to chugging ska to hip-hop and echoing dubs which evolve into something like a prayer mantra.

As Matisyahu goes into another inspired rap, his long body pogoing across stage to sometimes unintentionally humorous effect, I can't help think that if you remove the culture of the synagogue from the formula you are left with a fairly average white reggae band with a charismatic singer. The jury, as they say in New York, is still out.


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