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Matthew Paul Miller (born June 30, 1979), better known by his Hebrew name Matisyahu, is an American Hasidic Jewish reggae musician.

Known for blending traditional Jewish themes with reggae, rock and hip hop sounds, Matisyahu is most recognizable for his single "King Without a Crown", which was a successful Top 40 hit. Since 2004, he has released three studio albums as well as one live album, two remix CDs and one DVD featuring a live concert. One of his newest most popular songs is "One Day". Through his career, Matisyahu has worked with Bill Laswell and reggae producers Sly & Robbie.

Biography

Personal life

Matisyahu was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania as Matthew Miller; his family eventually settled in White Plains, New York. He was brought up a Reconstructionist Jew, and attended Hebrew school at Bet Am Shalom, a synagogue located in White Plains. He performed for over a year under the alias MC Truth in Bend, Oregon's Soulfori band. He spent some time as a young man as a self-professed "deadhead," taking hallucinogens and following the rock band Phish on tour.[1]

In 1996, Matisyahu took part in a semester-long program that offers students first-hand exploration of Jewish heritage at the Alexander Muss High School in Hod Hasharon, Israel. His experiences there significantly affected his feelings towards Judaism eventually leading to his decision to adopt Orthodox Judaism, becoming a Baal Teshuva around 2001. Initially he found his way to the Carlebach Shul on the West Side of Manhattan. Matisyahu then found his way to Chabad of Washington Square. He finished high school at a wilderness program in Bend, Oregon.[2] Following this seminal event, Matisyahu began playing with the Jewish band Pey Dalid.[3]

From 2001 through most of his early career until July 2007, Matisyahu was affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic community in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York. However, as of July 17, 2007, he told the Miami New Times in an interview that he no longer "necessarily" identifies with the Lubavitch movement. In the interview, he stated that "...the more I'm learning about other types of Jews, I don't want to exclude myself. I felt boxed in."[4] Additionally in the autumn of 2007 while on a family vacation spent primarily in Jerusalem's Nachlaot neighborhood he has expressed interest in another Hasidic sect, that of Karlin.[5] As of November 2007 he has confirmed a preference to pray at the Karliner synagogue in Boro Park where the custom is to ecstatically scream prayers; however he continues to reside in Crown Heights because of his wife's affinity for the community.[6]

Soon after his adoption of hasidism, Matisyahu began studying Torah at Hadar Hatorah, a yeshiva for returnees to Judaism where he wrote and recorded his first album. He counts Bob Marley, Phish,[7] God Street Wine and Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach among his musical inspirations and gives credit to Rabbi Simon Jacobson's book Toward a Meaningful Life for the lyrical inspiration to Youth's title track. As part of his faith, he does not perform in concert on Friday nights in observance of the Jewish Sabbath. An exception to this occurred at a 2007 concert in Anchorage, Alaska, which he allowed because the sun didn't set until 2:00 a.m.[8].

Matisyahu is married to Tahlia; the couple has two sons. He also has a younger sister named Julie.[9]

Career

In 2004, Matisyahu, after having signed with JDub Records, a not-for-profit record label that promotes Jewish musicians, released his first album, Shake Off the Dust...Arise. At the time a relatively unknown musician, he did not rise to prominence until Bonnaroo 2005, when Trey Anastasio of the band Phish invited him a guest spot on his set. This would prove to be the event that launched his career.[10]

His live album, Live at Stubb's, released in 2005, was recorded at a concert in Austin, Texas. This concert album, and Youth, his second studio album, both received critical and popular acclaim. Each album marks significant changes in his style, most markedly between Stubb's and Youth, when more rock music influences are evident. Since his second two albums became popular, Shake off the Dust has steadily risen in demand, fetching prices upwards of US$30.00 on online auction sites such as Ebay.

In 2005 and 2006 he toured extensively in the United States, Canada and Europe; and made a number of stops in Israel, including a performance as the supporting act for Sting in June 2006. In late 2006, he released No Place to Be, a remix album featuring re-recordings and remixes of songs from all three of his earlier albums, as well as a cover of "Message in a Bottle" by The Police.

The live version of the song King Without a Crown, broke into the Modern Rock Top 10 in 2006. The accompanying video and album, Youth, produced by Bill Laswell, were released on March 7, 2006. On March 16, Youth was Billboard magazine's number-one Digital Album. In 2006, he appeared once again at Bonnaroo, this time performing a solo set in front of an estimated crowd of over 10,000 people.

In spring 2006, right before the release of Youth, he cut ties with his managers at JDub Records, which resulted in some controversy due to his role in the founding of the label. Contrary to popular belief, JDub managed his act, but was not his record label. [11]

At the 2007 Slamdance Film Festival, the film Unsettled, in which Matisyahu appears, won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary Feature. While attending the festival, he performed in an impromptu concert at the Park City Film Music Festival in Park City, Utah. In the summer of 2007 he joined 311 on their Summer Unity Tour. He also performed in the 2008 documentary Call + Response.[12]

His third album, Light was released on August 25, 2009, along with the live EP Live at Twist & Shout.

Artistic style

The music, developed partly with his backing band Roots Tonic has a unique sound, mixing reggae, traditional rap, and guitar solos typical of rock music. He sometimes performs with Kenny Muhammad, a Muslim beatboxer. Matisyahu's major label debut album was produced by avant-garde musician and producer Bill Laswell, with minor contribution by pop producers Jimmy Douglass and the Ill Factor.

His songs are almost entirely in English with a few words of Hebrew and Yiddish sprinkled in. His reggae vocal style is along the lines of traditional Rasta Roots stylings mixed with dub sound. The easiest comparison would be similar to the conscious and cultural sides of Buju Banton, Snow, Sizzla, Capleton, or Junior Kelly, but with the upbeat message of Luciano, Bushman and Everton Blender, and vocal dexterity of Barrington Levy. The production of the tracks draws from King Tubby, Augustus Pablo, Mikey Dread, and Linval Thompson. Similarities to the Foundation Sound of the late 1970s and 1980s would be accurate, and comparisons to Morgan Heritage likewise, would not be wrong.

However, he mixes in contemporary stylings of rap and beatboxing, similar to Sublime, as well as the traditional Hazzan style of Jewish cantors and Hasidic nigunim. The generally critical New York Times' Kelefa Sanneh notes that "His sound owes a lot to early dancehall reggae stars like Barrington Levy and Eek-a-Mouse."[13] The Chicago Tribune's Kevin Pang has described a Matisyahu performance as "soul-shaking brand of dancehall reggae, a show that captures both the jam band vibe of Phish and the ska-punk of Sublime." Reviewers generally agree that Matisyahu may disappoint reggae purists, but acknowledge the unique blend of musical traditions that Matisyahu harnesses generally please the people who see his performances. Matisyahu's style has been compared to Jew da Maccabi, an Orthodox Jew from Florida who includes religious lyrics within a musical style derived from hip-hop.[14]

Matisyahu has stated that "All of my songs are influenced and inspired by the teachings that inspire me. I want my music to have meaning, to be able to touch people and make them think. Chasidism teaches that music is 'the quill of the soul.' Music taps into a very deep place and speaks to us in a way that regular words can't."[15]

His 2009 album Light represents a slight change of direction musically and he addressed this change in an interview: ""I think the vast majority of people that respect what I do are willing to move with me. I think it's not so much about genres or styles of music as it is about expressing the emotion or the idea," he says. "Whatever allows you to do that, whatever style, as long as it's authentic."[16]

Origin of his name

Matisyahu is an Ashkenazi Hebrew and Yiddish pronunciation of the Biblical name Matthew (מתתיהו). The same Hebrew name corresponds to the name Mattathias -- which is sometimes used as a translation of the name of the 2nd century B.C. Jewish high priest of the Maccabees.

Matisyahu Miller explained the origin of his personal use of the name in an interview in Kosher Spirit Magazine (a publication by OK Kosher Certification) as follows: His full secular name is Matthew Paul Miller, and the legal Hebrew name he received at his brit milah (circumcision ceremony) at eight days of age was forgotten. In Hebrew school it was assumed to be Matisyahu because of the connection between Matthew and Matisyahu. The original certificate from the brit was later located and he discovered that the actual name given at the brit was the Yiddish name "Feivish Hershel". He was advised by his rabbis to continue using the Hebrew name that he had grown up with.[17]

Touring members

Current

  • Matisyahu - vocals (2000— )
  • Aaron Dugan − guitar, ex-Roots Tonic (2004— )
  • Rob Marscher - keyboards (2008— )

Dub Trio:

  • Stu "Bassie" Brooks - bass guitar (2009— )
  • Joe Tomino - drums (2009— )
  • D.P. Holmes - guitar (2009— )

Former

  • Jonah David − drums, ex-Roots Tonic (2004–2007)
  • Josh Werner - bass, ex-Roots Tonic (2004–2007)
  • Borahm Lee - keyboards (2006–2007)
  • Skoota Warner - drums (2007-2008)
  • Jason Fraticelli - bass (2007-2009)

Discography

Studio albums

Date of Release Title Label US Billboard Peak US RIAA Certification
October 12, 2004 Shake Off the Dust... Arise JDub Records
March 7, 2006 Youth JDub/Or Music/Epic 4 Gold
August 25, 2009 Light JDub/Or Music/Epic 19

Other releases

Date of Release Title Label US Billboard Peak US RIAA Certification
April 19, 2005 Live at Stubb's (live) JDub/Or Music/Epic 30 Gold
March 7, 2006 Youth Dub
December 26, 2006 No Place to Be (remix album) (CD/DVD) Sony Music 149
October 21, 2008 Shattered (EP) Epic
August 25, 2008 Live at Twist & Shout (live) Epic

Singles

Year Title Chart Positions Album
US Hot 100 US Modern Rock US Rock Hot Digital Songs Pop 100
2006 "King without a Crown" 28 7 - 13 27 Live at Stubb's / Youth / Shake off the Dust... Arise
"Youth" - 19 - - Youth
"Jerusalem (Out of the Darkness Comes Light)"
(new version with Sly & Robbie)
- - - - Jerusalem (single)
2009 "One Day" - 21 38 - Light

Guest appearances

  • So Called - The So Called Seder: A HipHop Haggadah, JDUB Records, 2005 [18]
Track 3rd Cup: Yahu (also featuring Trevor Dunn)
  • P.O.D. - Testify, Atlantic, 2006 [19]
Tracks Roots In Stereo and Strength Of My Life
  • Ta-Shma - Come Listen, JMG, 2006[20]
Track Rachamana
  • C-Rayz Walz - The Dropping, Urchin Studios, 2006
Track Childhood (also featuring Kosha Dillz)
  • Amnesty International/iTunes exclusive compilation Make Some Noise in support of Darfur, Sudan
Matisyahu and Dub Trio track Watching The Wheels (like all songs on the compilation this is a John Lennon cover)
  • Co-wrote the song "Away with This" with Joseph Israel ([4]) and performed it live on both 2/19/2005 in Austin, Texas at Stubb's ([5] YouTube Video of event) and again on 12/8/2007 in Brooklyn, New York at the Warsaw Theater ([6] YouTube Video of event).
Track "Drown in the Now"
  • Featured on cover of the Beatles's Within You Without You performed by Easy Star All Stars on the 2009 album Easy Star's Lonely Hearts Dub Band [21].
  • Co-wrote and regularly performs "Unity" with Trevor Hall, 2009, a song encouraging the interfaith celebration of God

Cover versions

  • "Message in a Bottle" (The Police) - Album cover - Appears on his No Place to Be CD/DVD set
  • "Rastaman Chant" (Bob Marley) - Live cover [22]
  • "Soul Rebel" (The Wailers) - Live a capella cover [23]
  • "Watching the Wheels" (John Lennon) - Album cover - Appears on Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur
  • "Zion Train" (Bob Marley) - Live cover
  • "No Woman, No Cry" (Bob Marley) - Live cover
  • "Morning Dew" (Bonnie Dobson) - Live Cover [24]
  • "Billie Jean" (Michael Jackson) - Live Cover [25]

TV, radio, and film appearances

  • Headline News (Shanon Cook) (July 2004)
  • Jimmy Kimmel Live (August 24, 2004)
  • Last Call with Carson Daly (2004)
  • Steve Harvey's Big Time Challenge (2004)
  • The Tonight Show With Jay Leno (2005)
  • Late Night With Conan O'Brien (2005)
  • World Cafe (NPR) (July 29, 2005)
  • The Late Late Show (November 15, 2005)
  • mtvU Woodie Awards 2005 (November 2005)
  • MTV 10 Spot (December 6, 2005)
  • MTVU : Uber (December 19, 2005)
  • Late Show with David Letterman (January 16, 2006)
  • Late Night with Conan O'Brien (March 7, 2006)
  • Jimmy Kimmel Live (March 8, 2006)
  • CBS Sunday Morning (March 26, 2006)
  • WOCL Early 2006
  • Guerilla Gig Live (March 31, 2006)
  • Later with Jools Holland (May 12, 2006)
  • Late Late Show with Pat Kenny (May 19, 2006)
  • Zane Lowe, BBC Radio 1 (May 31, 2006)
  • MTV LIVE, MTV Canada (June 12, 2006)
  • Bonnaroo, Manchester, TN (June 18, 2006)
  • Rock Werchter 2006, Belgium (June 29, 2006)
  • Lollapalooza, Chicago (August 5, 2006)
  • Austin City Limits Music Festival, Austin, Texas (September 17, 2006)
  • Soundcheck, WNYC, New York City, (December 11, 2006)
  • The Tonight Show With Jay Leno (January 3, 2007)
  • Jimmy Kimmel Live (January 4, 2007)
  • Matisyahu appears in the 2007 documentary film Orthodox Stance where he performs for the entrance of boxer Dmitriy Salita to the ring.[26]
  • The Jewish Americans (PBS miniseries) (2008)
  • Late Night With Conan O'Brien (February 9, 2009) - with Brett Dennen
  • (WMMR) Preston and Steve (July 8, 2009)
  • NPR's World Cafe with David Dye (August 21, 2009)
  • [Alt Nation] (Sirius-21, XM-47) with Cane (August 25, 2009)
  • The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien (August 27, 2009)
  • Late Show with David Letterman (December 17, 2009)

Reception

Since his debut, Matisyahu has received positive reviews from both rock and reggae outlets. In 2006 he was named as Top Reggae Artist by Billboard[27] as well as being named a spokesperson for Kenneth Cole.[28] In 2006 Esquire's Esky Music Awards - Most Lovable Oddball in The magazine called him "the most intriguing reggae artist in the world."[29]

References

  1. AskMen.com - Matisyahu Picture
  2. Jewish MC rocks the mike and keeps it kosher Joan Anderman, 20 June 30 2004.
  3. Matisya-Who? by Brian Blum at Shabbat Shalom; June 15, 2006
  4. Matisyahu Tonight at Sound Advice Amphitheatre. July 17, 2007, Miami New Times Blog.
  5. The Bob and the Baba. October 9, 2007, HaAretz Daily Newspaper Israel.
  6. Matisyahu's New Spiritual Groove. November 28, 2007, The Jewish Week.
  7. [1] Rolling Stone. New CDs: Matisyahu, Juvenile, by Peter Relic. March 6, 2006
  8. Oy!Chicago Accessed July 4, 2008.
  9. AIM Celebrity Interview
  10. Matisyahu: Hasidic Hot Stepper Rolling Stone Magazine, Evan Serpick. Feb 24, 2006
  11. Hasidic Reggae Singer Surprises His Managers. March 14, 2006, Ben Sisario, The New York Times.
  12. http://www.callandresponse.com
  13. Matisyahu - Reggae Review - New York Times
  14. Jew Da Maccabi, Leslie Bunder. "Something Jewish" Dec. 19, 2005.
  15. Matisyahu's Passover, Chabad.org, April 2006.
  16. More Jersey than Jamaica, Jerusalem Post, August 30, 2009.
  17. M on M - Hasidic Reggae Superstar Kosher Spirit Magazine, Fall 2005.
  18. Amazon listing for Album, Track 9. Released Jun 21, 2005.
  19. Amazon listing for Album, Tracks 1 and 11. Released Jan. 24, 2006
  20. Amazon listing for Album, Track 2. Released Sept. 19, 2006.
  21. Official Track Listing Easy Star Records, 2009
  22. Internet Archive Setlist Live at The Funkbox on 2004-10-21
  23. Internet Archive Setlist Live at 2004 Jewish-American Festival on 2004-09-05
  24. Internet Archive Setlist Live at Toad's Place on 2007-12-02 (December 2, 2007)
  25. [2] Live at Knitting factory on 2009-06-25 (June 25, 2009)
  26. "Orthodox Stance - press kit". http://www.orthodoxstance.com/index.php?pg=press. 
  27. "Sean Paul, Matisyahu reggae's top acts in '06" Todd Martens for Reuters.
  28. [3]"Matisyahu: Clothes Horse, Diversity Poster Boy" by Carolyn Slutsky for Jewish Week New York.
  29. The 2006 Esky Music Awards April 2006, Volume 145, Issue 4.

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This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Matisyahu. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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