Matis the Prophet

Hasidic reggae singer Matisyahu talks about religion and his journey into reggae

At first glance, it´s easy to consider Matisyahu as a novelty act within reggae music. The tall, slender, and heavily bearded Jewish crooner seems about as far as you can get from Jamaica, and, in appearance, he´s unlike anyone else who´s ever made a living as a reggae singer. But spend some time talking to Matisyahu about his views, and it doesn´t take long to see how genuine he really is. Although he was fasting and coddling his infant son, Matisyahu took time out to get frank with New Times.

Outtakes: I heard about a recent show you performed on a Friday night in Fairbanks, Alaska, where the sun didn´t set. Within your religion, that´s not common.

Matisyahu: It was the first time in my career that I performed on a Friday night because the Sabbath didn´t hit. That was an amazing show. The sun didn´t go down until 2 a.m., so it was cool. There was no rush.

Do you see the connection between Rastafari and the Old Testament?

I guess, but there are so many religions based on the Old Testament... and Rastafari is just one of them. But Rastafarians have a special way of taking the scripture and relating it to their own lives. That´s what the Torah is all about. All of those Bob Marley records that I was listening to, a big thing of his is returning to your culture and to your roots. And in a sense, that´s kind of what helped propel me into looking into my own religion and feeling proud of it.

Is this part of a quest for you?

Well, yeah, because my parents aren´t even Hasidic. This is my journey. My initial ties were through the Lubovitch sect... I went to a Hasidic school for two years in Brooklyn. At this point, I don´t necessarily identify with it any more. I´m really religious, but the more I´m learning about other types of Jews, I don´t want to exclude myself. I felt boxed in.

What is your routine like right before you go on stage?

I try to have 15 minutes of quiet time, and I pray and meditate on God and what being Jewish means to me. But once I get that down, then I turn on Jay-Z and drink a glass of wine, and I turn into Brooklyn and I do my thing. To some it seems like a huge split, but for me, that´s always what I´ve been. I´ve always had these two sides of myself. But they´re not that different. My music is about bringing them together. Matisyahu opens for 311 on Tuesday, July 17, at Sound Advice Amphitheatre, 601-7 Sansbury´s Way, West Palm Beach. Tickets cost $25, and the show starts at 6:30 p.m. Visit www.ticketmaster.com.

 
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