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Friday, June 30, 2006

Matisyahu on Associated Press

Hasidic artist embraces secular stardom

By SOLVEJ SCHOU, Associated Press WriterFri May 26, 3:58 PM ET

At a music festival that included the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Kanye West, Tool and even Madonna, a Hasidic Jewish reggae singer was arguably one of the most popular acts on the bill.

Matisyahu, aka Matthew Miller, has gone from underground curiosity to mainstream star in the course of a year.

The 26-year-old ultraconservative Orthodox Jew, who grew up nonreligious in White Plains, New York, saw his groove-filled "Live at Stubb's" album on indie label jdub catapult up the charts.

In March, his major label debut "Youth" became a huge crossover hit for its combo of mock Caribbean chants, hip-hop beats and soul-searching religious lyrics.

He also became a father — welcoming the birth of his son Laivy, now 8 months old.

Sitting in an air-conditioned trailer just before performing in front of more than 20,000 half-naked, sun-baked fans at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, the 6-foot-3 singer — wearing the traditional long beard, white shirt and black pants of Hasidic men, plus a pair of hip Puma sneakers — chatted with The Associated Press.

With a soft-spoken intensity opposite of his high-energy onstage persona, he discussed spirituality, parenthood and fame, and balancing being Orthodox within the mostly secular world of music.

AP: A sociologist once said that "music is the kids' religion." How do you reflect on that?

Matisyahu: In terms of the idea of music being like religion, the two are obviously bound up with each other. From a Jewish perspective, music was used in the temple. The temple was the place where the revelation of God was actually present ... In every religion and culture, music has been used for the purpose of opening people up in order to sense the spiritual, to sense something which transcends this world.

AP: When you perform at a place like Coachella, in front of thousands of people, is it spiritual?

Matisyahu: There's a spirituality whether you're on stage in front of 25,000 people, or whether you're in a living room with your friend playing guitar ... People come to a music festival like Coachella to look for some kind of break out of the mundane. That's what music is supposed to offer to people. That's my goal.

AP: What has the last year been like for you?

Matisyahu: A year ago, I think we were touring, maybe playing some college shows. Basically, 'Live at Stubb's' had come out. It was just starting to get radio play. We were going through the summer touring festivals and playing shows. The record started taking off, doing well. A lot has changed.

AP: How do you balance a child, a young son, with playing music?

Matisyahu: It's a balancing act, but everyone has a balancing act. Having a child, there's absolutely nothing like it in the entire world. Not performing a concert, not owning any car, not being successful at anything, no amount of fame or money. There's nothing like the reward of having a child. You realize how much your parents loved you.

AP: Do you play your music for your son?

Matisyahu: Yeah, I do sometimes. At first, when he was a really small baby, he would cry. And I would turn the music on pretty loud. That would get him to stop crying. I don't really play it for him that much now. Maybe in the car. I dance with him sometimes, if he's in a bad mood, or if he's kvetchy. I'll pick him up and I'll do some song and dance with him. He loves that.

AP: How do you feel about the secular music community embracing your albums?

Matisyahu: It was never a question ... I grew up listening to secular music, going to see concerts and shows. My first concert was the Grateful Dead. I was about 3 years old. I went with my parents, in Northern California ... The first concert I went to on my own was Bruce Springsteen, the "Tunnel of Love" tour, in the '80s ... I guess growing up, I knew I was a Jewish person, but I didn't relate to my experience. My experience isn't what you would call a Jewish experience. But from the time I was little, I imagined myself making music, playing music. The fact that the audience that likes the music is not necessarily Jewish does not come as a surprise.

AP: There are Orthodox tenets you're supposed to follow, like not performing with nonreligious women in public. Does that apply today, performing on the same stage as female-fronted bands such the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Sleater-Kinney?

Matisyahu: I probably wouldn't go see them. Unfortunately, there are some really wonderful female singers I wouldn't see ... The law is that a man is only supposed to hear his wife singing. The idea being that the female voice is a very holy thing ... I adhere by that pretty much.

AP: But do you fully agree with that law?

Matisyahu: No, I don't necessarily agree with it. To me, I don't consider the female voice to be that sexual. It can be, but in a lot of cases I don't think it is. For example, I was on an airplane watching TV, and Natasha Bedingfeld was on. I watched it, and I was intrigued by it, from a professional standpoint. She was performing her hit song, but with an acoustic guitar player and three back-up gospel singers. It was amazing. The thought of sexuality didn't cross my mind at all. So I don't necessarily agree with it all the time.

I guess part of the law is creating a fence. It doesn't always make that much sense in the moment, but it might protect you from falling into the wrong places. In general, that's part of the Jewish religion, or adhering to any religion, in an Orthodox way. You adapt yourself to it, and you take it into yourself as well. Mostly when people go through the world they adapt everything to themselves instead of submitting to the greater thing.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Matisyahu at Bonnaroo 2006 (2/2)

Matisyahu beat box. plus you get a very good view of some guy's head.

Matisyahu "Sea to Sea". plus Matisyahu blessing for some drink.

Matisyahu Bonnaroo 2006 Jerusalem

Monday, June 26, 2006

Matisyahu Live in TelAviv @the Barby

Matisyahu Live in TelAviv @the barby

A very powerful performance of "King Without A Crown".

Friday, June 23, 2006

Free Matisyahu Mp3 and online music

Today I will list the best legal links for free Matisyahu mp3, free Matisyahu albums and free online Matisyahu music.

Hundreds of mp3 files of Matisyahu live from dozens of live shows. Grate quality, it's all free and legal from archive.org. See my post on matisyahu live music.

Download the excellent albums "Live At Stubbs" and "Shake off the Dust...Arise" for free from eMusic. All you need to do is to register for a free trial.

Untill may 2006 you could have downloaded 50 free songs, but now you can only download 25. What you want to do Is download the excellent "Live At Stubbs" (12 songs), and from "Shake off the Dust...Arise" (17 songs) you can give up two songs, number 7 (17 seconds) and number 15 (23 seconds) which are not songs at all. See my post on how to get free Matisyahu albums.

Matisyahu YouthMatisyahu: Live At StubbsMatisyahu: Shake_Off_The_Dust...Arise

Check out Mstisyahu online vidoes:
Matisyahu on The Leak
Matisyahu on MTV
Matisyahu on AOL

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Matisyahu sending a "Message In A Bottle"

Watch Matisyahu covers Police's "Message In A Bottle". What can I say, the band was very good. Matisyahu? Well, Matisyahu started not so good, but he improved later towards the middle of the song. Still it's very nice to watch:

Matisyahu police

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Matisyahu at Bonnaroo 2006 (1/2)

Here are a few videos of Matisyahu live in Bonnaroo part one of two.

A short clip of matisyahu doing an acoustic set on the sonic stage at bonnaroo 2006.

Matisyahu perfoming Intro to "King without a Crown".

Matisyahu getting crunk at Bonnaroo!!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Concert review: Hammersmith Palais, London

Hammersmith Palais, London
Alexis Petridis
Thursday May 25, 2006
The Guardian

Pioneer or just a novelty? ... Matisyahu. Photograph: Chris Pizzello/AP
Matisyahu's billing as America's biggest reggae singer is less hype than faint praise: the US has always proved diffident to reggae. Bob Marley never made the top 40 there; indeed, its beaches are among the last in the world where you won't be assailed by pot-head berks singing Three Little Birds. Yet the vast US sales for the former Matthew Miller's new album indicate the goyim appeal of his combination of pop-reggae and Hasidic Judaism. Tonight's audience in London, however, seem drawn by Miller's Judaism rather than their deep-rooted love for pop-reggae: there are certainly more yarmulkes here than you would find at a Shaggy gig. There's not much crowd interaction - Miller cuts an oddly remote figure, perhaps a result of his rabbi forbidding his stagediving, lest he touch a woman - but a big-up for Hashem gets a loud cheer. As he ploughs through Lord Raise Me Up and Jerusalem, the latter interpolated with Matthew Wilder's euro-pop hit Break My Stride, you understand why US audiences have taken Miller to their hearts. The most striking thing about his music - other than the fact that it's being sung by a man wearing a prayer belt - is how American it sounds. There are commercial AOR choruses and lengthy guitar solos and bursts of tricksy drumming borrowed from the Grateful Dead and Phish. He has also borrowed the jam bands' habit of going on a bit: he's a good human beatboxer, but he human-beatboxes for so long that you begin to wish that his rabbi had forbidden that as well. But the crowd love it, leaving the question of whether Matisyahu is a pioneer - a man who has discovered a previously untapped market - or merely an intriguing novelty hanging in the air.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


O.k. I found a longer video of Sting and Matisyahu. It's 7:17 minutes but the part where Sting says "We Want Moshiach" is not on this video. I'll keep looking for a better video for you...

STING & MATISYAHU live! (Roxanne) 2006 in ISRAEL

Here is a small part of the concert review of that spesific concert:

"The highlight of the show came from an unexpected source in a highly anticipated song. As the opening chords of 'Roxanne' (about a most misunderstood hooker) boomed across the arena, Matisyahu again took the stage. Showing his happy chabad colors, jumping and singing, Matisyahu gave new life to the anthem - and stole the limelight."

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Sting "Roxanne" with Matisyahu

O.k. this is the best I could find so far. Sting singing "Roxanne" with Matisyahu coming out at the end of the song singing "Dispatch the troops" on Roxanne's music. You can only see Matisyahu in the last 40 seconds of this 3 minutes video. I hope someone made a better video.

Sting-"Roxanne" with Matisyahu, June 8, 2006, ISRAEL -(1/2)

Sting-"Roxanne" with Matisyahu, June 8, 2006, ISRAEL -(2/2)

As Matisyahu said in that song: "Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv, Don't forget where you come from". The rhythm is nice, but, listen to the lyrics.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Spend Shabbat with Matisyahu


Kickstart your jam-packed weekend at Bonnaroo this year with some spiritual rejuvenation courtesy of singer Matisyahu! Take time out and join Matisyahu in his weekly observance of Shabbat customs, beginning with the evening service, Kabballat Shabbat, at 7:00PM., on Friday June 16, immediately followed by a Shabbos Party. On Saturday, June 17, morning services start at 10:00AM, followed by a group discussion at 3:00PM, and closing with the ceremony of "havdalah" -- the traditional prayer that marks the conclusion of the shabbat. All services will be moderated by Rabbi Simcha Levenberg and Rabbi Dov Yonna Korn (from the Chabad Houses at the University of Massachusetts and NYU respectively).

Stop by and tell your friends you spent Shabbat with Matisyahu!
Location: Staff Lot B (next to Camp Miss MoneyPenny -- look at lower right side of Bonnaroo map)

Not going to make it to Bonnaroo? You can still see Matisyahu perform LIVE as it's happening! Click here to go to the AT&T blue room and enjoy hours of free, uninterrupted, live streaming coverage from Bonnaroo June 16th-18th starting at 1:30PM ET/10:30AM PT.

Matis has announced shows in Los Angeles & Santa Barbara in August, and tickets are available NOW. Tickets are available at StubHub.com.

Matisyahu wants you to take action to help stop the crisis in Darfur. Play the MTVu game www.darfurisdying.com to find out more.

Matis came on during Sting's set to perform "Roxanne." Taken by AVI VALDMAN at the Sting show in Tel Aviv on June 8.

Matisyahu and Sting

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Sting wants Moshiach now!

Sting wants Moshiach now!

A clear sign that Moshiach is fast on the way is - as we say in the Aleinu prayer three times a day - is when the nations of the world call out Hashem's name.

Sting wants moshiach

Singer and composer Lenny Solomon - one of my very favorite people - attended the Matisyahu & Sting (photo, above) concert last Thursday at the Ramat Gan Stadium, and sent me the following Beam to share with you:

Hi Reb Lazer,

As I followed your Moshiach thread I thought I would relay to you what happened at the Sting/Matisyahu concert on Thursday night in Ramat Gan Stadium in Tel Aviv.

Matisyahu Matisyahu (photo, left) did a beautiful job opening up for Sting and then Sting performed. He was amazing. A world class musician and the band as well.

In the 15th song he is performing the classic Police song Roxanne and Matisyahu comes on stage and he starts performing his song "Dispatch The Troops" during the same song. It is very cool well rehearsed duet between the two.

Now at this point Sting turns to the audience and screams, "We Want Moshiach" 3 times. I tell you I got goosebumps. A crowd of 25,000-30,000 people mostly secular Jews went wild.

It was so cool - I called it a Geulah Moment!

Just thought I would share this story - what you like to call "a Beam". It was amazing to watch.

(taken from Lazer Beams)

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Matisyahu playing Xbox, what's that about?

Matisyahu Shoots, Scores!

Popular Jewish reggae/rapper Matisyahu must love the ice, the Zamboni and the Stanley Cup. That's because he'’ll be playing "“NHL 2K6"” online on Xbox Live against a lucky contest winner sometime in early July (no firm date has yet been set). "“Gaming is a great way to connect with people and Xbox Live gives me the ability to reach out and connect with fans from all over the world," ” says Matisyahu. Yeh, it sounds like someone wrote that for him. Nevertheless, he'’ll have fun playing "“NHL 2K6." ” Our tip: Don'’t listen to the announcers as they call the plays. For some reason, they sometimes get mixed up and think Jaromir Jagr is Michael Nylander, for example. No, they'’re not drunk. It'’s just a coding glitch that should have been caught in beta testing.



Want to know what I think? I think Matisyahu can do without these promotions, but then again, no one ever offered me to promote anything.

(taken from vh1.blogs.com, thanks to Chaim)

Friday, June 09, 2006

Today... Nothing much about Matisyahu

Hi all, I got nothing for you today.
I was going to write a song that would look like Enimem's Stan. I was going to call it "Moishe" instead of "Stan". I had some nice lines too. Many lines would remain from the original song, lines like:
"See, everything you say is real, and I respect you 'cause you tell it."

I had some funny lines (I marked the funny bits in case you won't get it) like:
"...My girlfriend's pregnant too, I'm out to be a father
If I have a daughter, guess what I'm-a call her? I'm-a
name her... What ever your daughter's name is."

"...But you could have signed an autograph for Matthew.
That's my little brother, man. He's only 6 years old.
We waited in the blistering cold for you for 4 hours
and ya just said oy."

"Dear Mr. "I'm too good to comment on my fan's blog""

"It's been six months and still no word. I don't deserve it?
I know your mom reads my blog..."

"I seen this blog on the internet a couple weeks ago that made me sick.
Some dude was wrote a blog that was all copied from other sites, nothing original.
And in that blog I saw a post, something lame about Eminem's song too,
Come to think about it...his name was...it was you.

well, as I gave that song a second look I realized it was too lame.... so, no song for you.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Matisyahu in Israel

Today Matisyahu is performing in Israel, opening for Sting. I guess someone thought it would be a good idea for Matisyahu to perform one more time before he goes back to the US.
So, Matisyahu will be performing in Tel-Aviv on the 10th of June.


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

College To Begin Offering Classes on Matisyahu

In the "are you serious? No, really, are you serious? It's way past April 1st" department. The JTA website is reporting that Fairleigh Dickinson University, a college in Teaneck, NJ will begin offering classes on Matisyahu.
An American university is offering a class on Jewish reggae singer Matisyahu.

Students at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, N.J., will study Matisyahu and his use of biblical and Chasidic themes in his lyrics, reported the New Jersey Standard.

The class is being offered as part of the school’s new Jewish studies minor.

I went to the FDU website and found out, my calender wasn't wrong. It was actually true. Very true. You can read more about this course in this PDF.

Here is a small excerpt:

"The New York Times called the tall reggae-singing chasid dull, and said that for a real reggae sound, it’s better to listen to the Jamaicans. Carson Daly, on the other hand, said that the guy with the black hat, beard, and tzitzit is the hottest thing in music today. But while the national media debate whether Matisyahu is more shtick than soul, a class at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck will look into just how much Jewish essence lies behind the chassidic reggae superstar’s lyrics.

In “Jerusalem,” Matisyahu chants, “Jerusalem, if I forget you, may my right hand forget what it’s supposed to do.” The track on his new Sony-produced album “Youth” expresses his love of the Jewish holy city, but how many people know that King David penned a nearly identical line in the Book of Psalms some 3,000 years ago?

That’s why the new 12-class FDU course will study the message behind Matisyahu’s music, using the singer’s own songbook — the Torah. “It’s really unfortunate [that] people don’t know what he’s saying. As somebody versed in scripture, I see a lot more than just fun reggae music,” said Rabbi Ely Allen, director of Hillel for the UJA of Northern New Jersey, who will teach the course. “He has become so popular. But beyond [just seeing] the gimmick of this chassidic guy playing reggae, I thought it was important to point out what he was actually saying.”

The Washington Jewish Week also has a story on this, which you can read here.

(taken from Life Of Rubin)

Monday, June 05, 2006

Matisyahu beat boxing in his own original style

Matisyahu beat boxing in his own original style.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Hasieeed! - The Gurdian on Matisyahu

He turned down dinner with Madonna and has turned his back on the other temptations of the music business. It's a tough life when you're the world's first Hasidic reggae star. On his home turf in Brooklyn, Gaby Wood meets Matisyahu

Sunday May 21, 2006

'Pretty freaking spiritual' ... Matisyahu
The night before I meet Matisyahu, the world's first Hasidic reggae star, there is a riot in a nearby Hasidic neighbourhood in Brooklyn. It makes the front page of all the New York papers: police arrested a 75-year-old Jewish man for talking on his mobile while driving, and hundreds of Orthodox Jews took to the streets in retaliation. Bonfires were lit, a police car was set on fire, and the crowd began to chant: 'No justice no peace!'

That there were echoes of Bob Marley in this impromptu Jewish protest song would not have been lost on Americans newly familiar with the merging of the two cultures. Matisyahu, the unlikely phenomenon responsible for bringing them together in mainstream music, has sold well over a million copies of his first studio album, Youth, since it came out in the US in January.

Described by Rolling Stone magazine as 'the strangest thing to climb the Billboard charts this year', Matisyahu sounds at first like something the Farrelly brothers might have invented had they teamed up with Sacha Baron Cohen: a rapping, reggae-inspired, bearded, schul-going Orthodox pop star, who sings in Jamaican patois of 'Hashem's rays' and waiting for the 'Mashiach'. Let's face it, how many other reggae CDs credit several rabbis in the sleeve notes?

Yet it became clear almost immediately that Matisyahu was more than just a gimmick. Made after a successful recent live album and a quieter release, Shake off the Dust ... Arise from 2004, Youth was produced by Bill Laswell, the man behind artists as varied as Herbie Hancock, Laurie Anderson, Motörhead and Bob Marley. It debuted at number two in the Billboard charts, is still in the top 20 several months later, and has already spawned so many imitators that there are websites devoted to 'top 10 Jewish reggae' bands. Matisyahu's lyrics are full of expressions of faith and torment that might as well be universal, and the vibrant sound is perhaps best described as Bob Marley without the sunshine. Matisyahu, who begins his first UK tour this month, says he has seen 'every type of person' at his concerts: 'people you'd normally see at a hip hop show, people who look like indie rock people, then some middle-aged lady and some older men with a beard and a yarmulke. That's what's working for us - people appreciate the music and they appreciate the whole story and the vibe behind it.'

The man himself is a towering 27-year-old. Matisyahu - born Matthew Miller - is 6' 5" and so softly spoken, I can barely hear him over the Flaming Lips album he's playing in the background. He wears a crisp blue shirt over dark trousers, a prayer belt and trainers; as he speaks, with a shy sort of honesty, he contorts his long legs around each other and pushes his yarmulke back on his head.

He has asked to meet at the youth centre in Crown Heights, a part of Brooklyn that consists (almost too perfectly, given Matisyahu's music) of a strong Hasidic enclave surrounded by a mostly West Indian population. He lives here with his wife and eight-month-old son, partly because 'being religious you have to pray three times a day, and there's synagogue on every block', and partly because he likes the 'vibe of togetherness'.

His best friend, Elon Weinberg, works at the youth centre - a large, fluorescent-lit room empty except for a couple of old leather sofas - and the place was the venue of one of the band's very first concerts, about three years ago. Matisyahu, pointing to the far end of the room, says: 'We were playing in that corner, and in the middle of the gig, these maggots started falling, like, all over the place. We didn't even realise what they were. We were looking around, the drummer was looking at his drums, and he sees these white things and he's like, what is this? And suddenly he stops in the middle of the gig and screams. And I looked up and there were maggots falling out of the ceiling.'

You can't, I suggest, get much more biblical than that.

Hasidism, with its many rules and restrictions, would seem to be one of the most difficult things to align with a life in the music business, one of the most unruly careers you could find. There are the practicalities, for a start - not being allowed to shake a woman's hand unless you are married to her, still less receive the random physical adulation of female fans; finding kosher food on the road; being told by your rabbi that the stage-diving has got to stop. And then there are the philosophical discrepancies, which were highlighted recently as Matisyahu's celebrity clashed with his religion.

Earlier this year, Madonna sent word that she'd like to invite him to her Seder dinner at Passover. However, Madonna, by virtue of being herself, goes against Matisyahu's beliefs: according to Hasidic Judaism, women are not allowed to sing in public. ('Um, yeah,' he confirms uncomfortably, 'it's something that we wouldn't really support.') He didn't go to the Seder, needless to say, and seems embarrassed when the subject is mentioned.

His friend Elon thinks that if anyone can handle the combination of lifestyles, it's Matisyahu. 'Is he under pressure? Sure,' Weinberg tells me. 'Just to operate within these worlds - he's already changed his phone number, changed his email. Everyone wants a piece of the action. But he's a very refined, spiritual person by nature.'

What do people in the community think of what he's doing? 'There are opinions,' says Weinberg, diplomatically. 'There's no question that the young people love it, and the returnees to Judaism - the people who didn't grow up in this environment - they love it. A lot of people think that he's bringing a godly message to the world. But others feel he's misrepresenting Judaism, that it's not necessarily kosher. I think the main premise those people subscribe to is that he's playing a style of music that's not traditionally Jewish, and that he's going into environments that are not modest, that are full of sex and drugs.'

Odd as it may seem, Matisyahu's journey to the regulated world in which he now lives is in many ways an old-fashioned tale of rock'n'roll rebellion. He grew up in White Plains, a middle-class suburb of New York. His parents, both liberal, secular Jews, are social workers who took him to his first Grateful Dead concert before he was two. He hated Hebrew school as a boy, and felt a misfit altogether. By 14, he was a full-blown hippie, wearing dreadlocks, playing the bongos in his lunch hour and listening to a lot of Bob Marley, whose references to the Old Testament struck him. He visited Israel for the first time the summer he turned 16, and began to feel a connection to his Jewish identity he'd never felt before. On his return home, he dropped out of high school to follow Phish on a US tour, and slept rough for a while. One friend remembers him as 'a total stoner' - a habit that got him deposited in a progressive school in Oregon, where he delved further into music, beatboxing in local cafés under the name of MC Truth.

'It was wild,' he remembered recently, 'We would drink a big pitcher of mushroom tea, and I'd come out with a turban and a huge Israeli flag, and we'd walk around throwing sage on people.'

Two years later, he came back to New York, and began to frequent a synagogue on the Upper West Side founded by Shlomo Carlebach, a man famous for his music, and whose pronounced style he has since incorporated into his own music. 'All the prayers are like these melodies,' Matisyahu says, 'they're very simple and just sort of soulful - not like the typical Jewish liturgy, not operatic. They're almost folky, but they feel Jewish.'

It was around this time that Matisyahu happened to meet a rabbi in Washington Square Park. 'He had been on a similar path to me,' he says, 'he was on Grateful Dead tours and stuff like that. You usually think of a Hasidic person as being really unrelatable - like, not funny, certainly, and this guy immediately broke all of those stereotypes.'

By this time, Matisyahu was 'sort of becoming religious': he had stopped shaving, was praying once or twice a day, and when he tried wearing a yarmulke in the street, he liked it - 'I liked representing myself through my roots and my culture. But I hadn't really done any learning.' That, he says, came a lot later. It was due to the influence of Rabbi Korn, the campus rabbi at New York University, that Matisyahu became religious in this particular way. 'Certainly until that point I didn't think of myself like, "I'm going to be a Hasidic Jew,"' he says, 'but I was with the rabbi in Washington Square Park, and the Hasidic Jews that he had there, one of them was actually from the same town where I grew up and went to the same Hebrew school, and another also came from a secular background. There's one night when you dance with the Torah, you take it outside into the street and you drink a lot. So while we were all drunk and dancing around the park with the Torah, I looked around and I thought, well, you know - like, this is not so far off.'

Matisyahu's parents panicked. 'I hadn't been living at home for a while,' he explains, 'and it just so happened that at the time when I was becoming religious, I moved home. It was just something that was scary because - it makes sense - you know, your kid is doing something that's totally foreign to what you know. So there's fear there. That's what happened with my parents.'

Instead, Matisyahu moved in with Rabbi Korn and his family. He lived there for six months, changed his name to the Hebrew version of Matthew, and entered the yeshiva [school for Torah study] again. 'A lot of times people say it's like a seed being planted in the ground and the seed rots, and from that comes a flower. That's sort of what happened to me - I was planted in yeshiva and what came out was me now - with a wife and a kid and a career.'

'I believe/Out of darkness comes light,' Matisyahu sings on the bouncy single 'King Without a Crown', 'Twilight unto the heights/Crown Heights burning' up all through the twilight/Said, thank you to my God, now I finally got it right'.

Matisyahu met his wife Tali when she was a film student at NYU. She asked to interview him for a documentary about the idea of men and women not touching. 'She was not as religious as I was. And she met me and saw after the interview that I'm like, very religious but very normal also. I think that's part of what attracted her.'

He was living in Crown Heights by then, and had started to work on his music full-time. 'Basically,' as he puts it, 'I was ready to get married. The way it kind of works is, you go to yeshiva for a certain period of time, and you know, you're not dating, you're not hanging out with girls, and that part of the human being, like, obviously needs at some point to express itself. So I talked to my rabbis, and they were saying that being in the circumstances that I was in, there could be lots of temptation. So they were, like, you should probably get married now, and you should find someone who will help you in serving God.'

They were set up by Rabbi Korn ('You have to set up a date through the rabbi') and went through a dating process that Matisyahu admits would make a great premise for a sitcom. 'After the date she called the rabbi and told him what happened, and I called the rabbi and told him what happened. Then we decided if we wanted to go another date. By the third date, I knew this was the person I wanted to marry.'

They were married within months; the couple's son, Laivy (so spelled so that no one pronounces the biblical figure like the brand of jeans), comes with the band when they tour the US - he is said to hang out backstage, wearing huge noise-cancelling headphones. Matisyahu thinks Laivy is going to be introduced to such a mixture of different lifestyles that he imagines his son's future to be 'totally different from anyone in the history of the world, probably'.

Matisyahu doesn't separate his beliefs from his music. 'It's all sort of united,' he says. The Jamaican patois he sings in was what came naturally to him after years of being influenced by reggae, and he found that the Rastafarian idea of Zion shared a good deal with what he had in mind. On the first track of Youth, 'Fire of Heaven', he sings, in haunting reverberation, 'Fire descends from on high in the shape of a lion/Burn the sacrifice of pride and ride on Mount Zion.' (He describes the dub reggae of this recording as 'like techno, but more spacey'.)

'There are definitely a lot of similarities,' he explains. 'The whole concept of transcendence and spiritual freedom - like Marley's "Redemption Song". "Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery/None but ourselves can free our minds" - that idea is very prevalent in my music. And "Running Away" is another one - "You must have done something wrong/Why can't you find the place where you belong?" Those concepts are really universal - every individual could relate to those themes. I draw on them from a Jewish context, because a lot of those themes are prevalent in Judaism, so through my learning and studying and my meditating, I draw my lyrics.'

I wonder if, after all the marketing and the success, he resents his religion being used for publicity purposes - whether being reduced to a mere one-line pitch debases everything he has worked towards in private. 'Well, no,' he says, considering the achievement more important. 'Because there has never been an Orthodox Jew in mainstream music. It's true, it's right here,' he adds, patting his chest, 'people can't really get away from that.'

There is a Lenny Bruce skit that goes: 'Dig: I'm Jewish. Count Basie's Jewish. Ray Charles is Jewish ... Negroes are all Jews, Italians are all Jews. Irishmen who have rejected their religion are Jews ... If you live in New York or any big city, you are Jewish'. By that reckoning, Matisyahu has nothing to fear: he is preaching to the converted.

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