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(photo credit: Courtesy / Aaron Bisman)
International Chabadnik hip-hop reggae sensation Matisyahu is particular about the company he keeps this time of year. According to a report in Rolling Stone from early 2006, the Grammy nominee turned down an invitation to Judaism-loving Madonna's Seder, questioning the kashrut of such an event. This year, he'll be arriving very close to the holiday for two Israel performances, leading up to Hol Hamoed shows in South Africa.
Matisyahu's most recent gigs in Israel took place in June, when he appeared alongside legendary classic bassist (and adult-contemporary singer-songwriter) Sting for a duet version of "Roxanne." In fact, Matisyahu, who grew up a secular prep-hippie in Westchester County, NY, can't get enough of Israel.
"Yerushalayim is my home," he sings on "Lord Raise Me Up," one of his signature songs. "Raise Me Up" appears early on in the singer's recently released Live in Israel DVD, a movie filmed at Tel Aviv's Barby club last December, interspersed with interview footage shot in Jerusalem's Old City.
Here, Matisyahu explains that he came from one world and immersed himself in another in Crown Heights before finding a happy balance as a bearded pop star. Part of him wishes he could be a full-on "super-Hassid," learning holy teachings full-time in the Old City, but he notes later on in the film that perhaps more realistically, some day he may merit to erect a gender-dividing mehitza at his concerts.
No Place to Be, a companion audio CD of remixes that comes bundled with the movie, features contributions from legends like Sly & Robbie (the reggae production duo that has also worked with Fugees, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Cliff, Joe Cocker, Peter Tosh, Mick Jagger and Black Uhuru) and Bill Laswell (who has collaborated with Brian Eno, John Zorn, Herbie Hancock, Ginger Baker, Bootsy Collins and David Byrne as well as acting as official remixer for Miles Davis, Bob Marley and Carlos Santana).
Clearly, Matisyahu is moving up in the world, and his Israel itinerary reflects this. While previous mini-tours have included multi-show stints at mid-sized clubs, this time around he's set to play two of the biggest rooms in the land.
Matisyahu plays Jerusalem's Binyanei Haumah auditorium on Saturday night at 8:30, with tickets costing NIS 165 and Daniel Zamir scheduled as the opening act. On Sunday night, he plays the Tel Aviv Port's Hangar 11 warehouse at 9, with tickets costing an even higher NIS 185 and Tomer Yosef scheduled as the opening act.
As of press time, tickets are still available through the Lean agency, reachable at (03) 524-7373 or www.leaan.co.il.