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Pompano Beach, FL - Matisyahu's Hebrew Lyrics Leave Audience Clueless

Published on: June 1, 2009 04:11 PM
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Matisyahu wows the crowd, but do they understand what he sings? [photo credit: J. L. De Cristofaro]Matisyahu wows the crowd, but do they understand what he sings? [photo credit: J. L. De Cristofaro]

Pompano Beach, FL - Matisyahu kicked off his U.S. tour at Pompano Beach Amphitheater Saturday night venturing, not always compellingly, into new musical territory, mixed with the reggae-dub style rap that the devout Jewish artist has become known for. Matisyahu’s intensity in performance, and the way he addresses profound themes were impressive; musically, he sometimes left something to be desired.

The tall, lanky rapper and singer took the Amphitheater’s stage a little after 9 p.m. under a miraculous-seeming (considering recent downpours) clear sky, well after sunset and the end of Shabbat, wearing a long black coat and shirt over a tallit, or fringed prayer shawl, and a black yarmulke over long hair, all typical of the devout form of Judaism Matisyahu follows. He often sang swaying forward and back as if praying, and later in the concert, sometimes vocalized wordlessly, as if praying or meditating, while his band thundered and echoed behind him.

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It was hard to tell how much the audience at the approximately two-thirds full amphitheater—mostly white, ranging from tattooed 20-somethings (one man had a Jewish star under his left ear) to families with young children to older folks—understood Matisyahu’s complex religious references on songs like the hypnotic, bass-heavy Warrior, in which he sings about returning the Jewish diaspora to the king. There didn’t seem to be anyone dressed with Matisyahu’s devout trappings, though there were plenty of alternative band T-shirts and ones with irreverent Judaic-pop culture jokes like ‘‘Jew So Crazy’’ or Rastar with the Jewish star. A dense crowd down front pumped fists and jumped to the beat, but Matisyahu lost a good part of the audience by the ambling end of the show.

Matisyahu included four songs from his upcoming album, Light, due out Aug. 25, in his 10-song, more than 90-minute long set that also included older songs Jerusalem, Time of Your Song, Youth, Chop Em Down and King Without a Crown. Live, the new songs tilted toward hard, thundering rock meshed with spacey, echoing dub, with little of the melodic and musical experimentation heard on the new recording. The band, with guitar and keyboards added to Dub Trio’s guitar, bass and keyboards, filled the air with a dark, dense sound.

The lyrics to the new songs seemed to explore more universal kinds of spirituality and struggle. In the opening Escape, Matisyahu seemed to refer to religious extremity: ‘‘children taught to blow their brains out in the holy name . . . running for survival running from the rifle running for the Bible and against false idols.’’ In Smash Lies, he called for people to ‘‘wake up, stand up and jump off to this’’ and to ‘‘fight the foes’’ on the ``fields of greed.’‘

Matisyahu ventures effectively into singing on Light, but, judging from Saturday’s show, he’s not yet totally comfortable—or accomplished—singing live. On One Day, a lovely pop-world beat-reggae song from Light with a movingly rendered one-world, one-love message, he began singing quietly, in a near falsetto, only to have his voice crack. He did better when he began singing full out. The crowd swayed along uncertainly. One Day has a beautiful melody and easy rhythm, but Matisyahu’ live, dark, thundering, hard rock arrangement clouded what makes One Day most appealing.

Matisyahu was more confident in the rapid toasting and rapping he’s known for. There were times when his ability and intensity, and the intensity of the band, took the music to powerful heights. But there were also times when he seemed to go so deep into himself, vocalizing and swaying, that he seemed to drift away. He may have been in touch spiritually, but he lost connection with the audience.


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Read Comments (22)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Jun 01, 2009 at 03:48 PM Josh Says:

Shame he left Chabad, maybe he could have stayed a bit normal.

2

 Jun 01, 2009 at 04:06 PM Anonymous Says:

It's controversial to say, but it's a big kidush hasham that we have that talent in our community! Now is your turn konuim!!

3

 Jun 01, 2009 at 04:02 PM Anonymous Says:

His music is in the great chasidshe tradition......when the Rebbe z'tl, would first start singing a new nigun, I doubt the chasidim sitting around his tisch would have raised questions about the source of the melody or the inspiration for his music. Matisyahu's musical renderings are in the same tradition of the rebbe and should be embraced by heimeshe yidden of any derech who are seeking some fresh ideas in yiddeshe music.

4

 Jun 01, 2009 at 04:57 PM Anonymous Says:

Shame shame that this passes as a kidush hashem: a man performing in front of goyim and shiksas. Spreading yidishkei? Gimme a break, what's next, wedding the goyim to spread yiddishkeit? How narrow can ppl supporting him be? Its simple, defy the words of the torah and it is forbidden.besides, I have yet to see a goy who started going to church because M's "message"

5

 Jun 01, 2009 at 04:49 PM Mendy Says:

I Was at his chanukah concert in NYC, he tottaly rocked the house! :-)

6

 Jun 01, 2009 at 06:20 PM kivi Says:

Lipa shmeltzer and 50 cents hebrew lyrics also leave me clueless all the time!!!!! What else is new?????

7

 Jun 01, 2009 at 08:27 PM PMO Says:

The guy gets on stage and sings what he knows about. If he inspires one yid to come closer to Torah, it is a bigger accomplishment than most of us will ever do in our lives. Leave the guy alone. He does a good thing.

8

 Jun 01, 2009 at 07:17 PM shlepshitz Says:

Well even for jews is hard to understand what he is singing

9

 Jun 01, 2009 at 06:59 PM music Says:

I am from the old school m-b-d is still the best and most refined music

10

 Jun 01, 2009 at 06:39 PM Anonymous Says:

#2: where does Kenuim come into the picture. can you explain where in rambam or any other place in chaz"l says that this is considered Kiddush Hashem ? just the opposite, when goyim see that yidden are conducting themselves and taking upon them the secular colture THATS considered Chilul Hashem.

11

 Jun 01, 2009 at 08:56 PM sumgai Says:

Reply to #9  
music Says:

I am from the old school m-b-d is still the best and most refined music

i am from the really old school! nigunim are the most refined tunes (although i have a special place in my heart for Kabbalah Dream Orchestra and 8th Day).

12

 Jun 01, 2009 at 08:40 PM Anonymous Says:

clueless jews on vin whats new??/?/
we are obligated to spread the word of god regardless if the goyim take action on it.
he comes from a none frum household and being the way he is, is a great kidush hashem.
and since when is leaving chabad a shame? he became a breslov chasid after feeling more connected with the breslov way.
a great rabbi once said " learn and you will see not everything is asur" only the once who dont learn and dont know halacha and jewish philosophy can say negativity on matisyahu

13

 Jun 01, 2009 at 09:12 PM Old school Says:

Thank you I do love Yom Tov Erlich as well. I love songs with messages and feelings. Songs that are Eidel and yet leibidig at the same time. This type of rap has no place for Klall Yisroel. It does the opposite stuff it takes Boys and Girls away from true Yiddishkeit it is a shame that they sell his tapes in kosher stores. It is a shame they consider him a tzadik. How sad and discussting that they need this type of chizuk

14

 Jun 01, 2009 at 11:03 PM Milhouse Says:

Reply to #3  
Anonymous Says:

His music is in the great chasidshe tradition......when the Rebbe z'tl, would first start singing a new nigun, I doubt the chasidim sitting around his tisch would have raised questions about the source of the melody or the inspiration for his music. Matisyahu's musical renderings are in the same tradition of the rebbe and should be embraced by heimeshe yidden of any derech who are seeking some fresh ideas in yiddeshe music.

You really have no idea at all what you're talking about.

Oh, and which rebbe?

15

 Jun 01, 2009 at 10:22 PM Anonymous Says:

Unfortunatly by the goyim you can still find real music if you search, however orthodox jewosh music is calapsed in ruins In a graveyard.

No one understands to real music and no one has patients or time to listen and lern what the ABC of good music is.

The less musical a song is the easier the new generation will pick it up due to the lack of musical artists.

16

 Jun 01, 2009 at 10:20 PM Oldschool Says:

Reply to #3  
Anonymous Says:

His music is in the great chasidshe tradition......when the Rebbe z'tl, would first start singing a new nigun, I doubt the chasidim sitting around his tisch would have raised questions about the source of the melody or the inspiration for his music. Matisyahu's musical renderings are in the same tradition of the rebbe and should be embraced by heimeshe yidden of any derech who are seeking some fresh ideas in yiddeshe music.

How can you compare this to the rebba and show it as the same source? Unfortunately this is how low the generation has become. I am no chossid of the rebba but this is quite distasteful

17

 Jun 01, 2009 at 10:18 PM Oldschool Says:

Reply to #12  
Anonymous Says:

clueless jews on vin whats new??/?/
we are obligated to spread the word of god regardless if the goyim take action on it.
he comes from a none frum household and being the way he is, is a great kidush hashem.
and since when is leaving chabad a shame? he became a breslov chasid after feeling more connected with the breslov way.
a great rabbi once said " learn and you will see not everything is asur" only the once who dont learn and dont know halacha and jewish philosophy can say negativity on matisyahu

Okay so he comes frum a none frum household that explains his behaviour. However our children who were raised chassidish and have different values don't need to hear his tapes or go to his concerts. The stores shouldn't be selling them nor promoting them either. This isn't anything against him personally I wish him all the best, it just is very sadand painfull for our teenagers it makes much easier for them to go astray. What kind of music you listen to does matter and it certainly impacts the soul.

18

 Jun 02, 2009 at 12:28 AM Milhouse Says:

Reply to #16  
Oldschool Says:

How can you compare this to the rebba and show it as the same source? Unfortunately this is how low the generation has become. I am no chossid of the rebba but this is quite distasteful

He knows nothing about any rebbe, that's why he could write a comment so utterly stupid. Forget about Matisyohu, what he wrote about "the rebbe" (whichever one he means) is also nonsense.

19

 Jun 02, 2009 at 08:16 AM agreements Says:

Reply to #18  
Milhouse Says:

He knows nothing about any rebbe, that's why he could write a comment so utterly stupid. Forget about Matisyohu, what he wrote about "the rebbe" (whichever one he means) is also nonsense.

Thank you although very often we disagree I am glad that this makes sense to you as well, It would to anyone it is okay to have a difference of opinion it isn't okay to make such stupid comments

20

 Jun 16, 2009 at 10:43 AM Lubavitcher Says:

Reply to #4  
Anonymous Says:

Shame shame that this passes as a kidush hashem: a man performing in front of goyim and shiksas. Spreading yidishkei? Gimme a break, what's next, wedding the goyim to spread yiddishkeit? How narrow can ppl supporting him be? Its simple, defy the words of the torah and it is forbidden.besides, I have yet to see a goy who started going to church because M's "message"

The Lubavitcher Rebbe said to "spread yidishkiet all over the world, even in the presence of a gentile(s)".
It is definitley NOT forbidden to do what Matisyahu does. He is a Shliach doing his job through singing. You can dissagree with me all you want, but dont put down another Jew, especially a Bal Tshuvah, because you never know who will see your comments. I am a friend of a Baal Tshuvah,who was inspired by Matisyahu a few years ago. I myself became a Lubavitch chossid about 5 years ago. Matisyahu inspired me as well. He was the "push" for me to become more Religious, and I am grateful to Matisyahu for his music and Hakadosh Baruch Hu for always being there to guide me.

Take care my fellow Jew:) All the best-

21

 Jun 23, 2009 at 01:33 PM Alon Says:

Reply to #4  
Anonymous Says:

Shame shame that this passes as a kidush hashem: a man performing in front of goyim and shiksas. Spreading yidishkei? Gimme a break, what's next, wedding the goyim to spread yiddishkeit? How narrow can ppl supporting him be? Its simple, defy the words of the torah and it is forbidden.besides, I have yet to see a goy who started going to church because M's "message"

Mr Anonymous, you might just be the one that is too narrow to understand. It might not be for you to do but you can't argue it's not a Kidush Hashem. You have no idea of the bigger picture of the effect Matisyahu's created/ing. A non-jew's perception of religious jew has definitely changed in a positive light. I personally met a woman married to a Goy who started lighting Chanukah Candles with her children b/c of his music, b/c it was his music. She was turned off judaism as a youngster and this started her coming back. I was at many of his shows in the south, (very christian) and they think he's the next yoshke for bringing G-d's message to the world. that could definitely get ppl going to church. lol. Bottom line, go to one of his shows in the middle of america and you'll understand more of what ppl are talking about Kidush Hashem. Spread a bit of good yourself, don't spread the negativity. :-)

22

 Oct 01, 2009 at 11:12 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #4  
Anonymous Says:

Shame shame that this passes as a kidush hashem: a man performing in front of goyim and shiksas. Spreading yidishkei? Gimme a break, what's next, wedding the goyim to spread yiddishkeit? How narrow can ppl supporting him be? Its simple, defy the words of the torah and it is forbidden.besides, I have yet to see a goy who started going to church because M's "message"

I believe he is going for a more general, spiritual feel sometimes...to appeal to a larger crowd. That is what I will be light is about...energy...not religion

23

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