‘To each his own” and “live and let live,” seems to be the life motto governing
Matisyahu these days, even when it comes to proponents of the rapidly growing
Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
“I think it’s bull****,
but everybody has their own views,” the formerly Hassidic rapper and passionate
lover of Israel told The Jerusalem Post when asked about the anti-Israel
“Everyone can do whatever they want to do. If you don’t like a
certain kid, don’t play at their house,” he said.
And perhaps it is this
attitude of tolerance and understanding – even of people whose views he
vehemently opposes – that embodies the artist today.
Matthew Miller, has spent over a decade delivering a blend of reggae/rap/hip hop
beats heavily influenced by the Torah and Jewish teachings.
As a young
adult, Matisyahu visited Israel in order to explore his Jewish identity. It was
there where he became fascinated with what it means to be Jewish and searched
for ways to incorporate Jewish teachings into his music.
In 2011, he
shocked fans around the world when he shaved off his beard, took his music in a
different direction and presented a new physical, spiritual and artistic version
Since Judaism is a complex, yet highly integral part of his
life, he was understandably hesitant to pinpoint the exact reason behind
undergoing such a dramatic religious transformation.
However, fans need
only to look to his new songs to understand this new incarnation of
His latest album, Spark Seeker, seems to represent the
artist’s extremely personal, yet public, transformation. The album, which was
partly recorded in Israel, has hints of pop, mixed with eclectic Middle Eastern
Many of its songs espouse feel good messages of acceptance,
tolerance and the paramount, yet deeply individual, search for
For example, in his song “Bal Shem Tov,” he proclaims, “search
heaven and the seven seas/the answer lies inside you/you know it won’t come
easy/you’ve got to find your own truth.”
And shedding his former Hassidic
identity may very well be his attempt in doing just that.
Of course, a
change in sound and appearance is something all successful artists do, but his
is more complex – and more intriguing – because it is complicated by the extent
with which his devotion to his religion impacts his music.
more secular appearance, Matisyahu is still very much an observant Jew in his
The musician, who is currently on tour promoting the new
album, acknowledges the difficulty in balancing a religiously observant life
while on the road touring with his non-religious band. Doing so is something he
embraces, yet struggles with.
“It definitely taught me a lot about being
alone and spending time alone,” he said of keeping the Sabbath in an environment
not exactly conducive to quiet, religious study.
With a GAP Bright Festival performance scheduled for September 23 at the Zappa Shuni Amphitheater in Binyamina and a September 26 performance at the Zappa Club in Tel Aviv, Matisyahu will have a chance to come back to the very place that inspired his long artistic journey: the Holy Land.
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