Matisyahu sparked a fire when he burst onto the scene, charming the world as a reggae singer, decked out in full Chasidic garb, complete with the black hat and long beard. He became an inspiration to Jews on all points of the religious spectrum, as well as everyone just looking for validation to be who they were and nothing more. Then one day Matisyahu walked into a Supercuts and told them to cut off his beard. It shocked just about everybody. Who was “Matisyahu” without those hairs that fell unceremoniously to floor of a budget hair salon?
Nearly two years later, Matisyahu has continued to tour and produce new music. Next week he’ll be performing a special acoustic performance at Adath next week, at 8 PM April 24, 2014. (Tickets range from $18 to $50.) The beard is gone, but the passion still remains in his music. TC Jewfolk recently caught up with Matisyahu in anticipation of the concert to ask him how things have changed.
“I don’t love talking about who I am and what deeply personal changes I have made,” he told us. “In the words of a drunk man I met in a gas station last week, ‘don’t talk about it, be about it.'” he said. “Be the thing.”
Most of the last decade of Matisyahu’s life had really been immersed in Judaism and reggae music: “Whether it was to wear a yarmulke or not, if it is coming from a pure place — the true place within — I wouldn’t have to prove myself explain myself. I think I can do whatever I want with my life and people can understand whatever they want to understand,” he said in one interview.
Most should know his story by now. Matthew Paul Miller grew up in White Plains, NY as a Reconstructionist Jew, and spent hours in his room as a teenager taking cues from Bob Marley and Phish. He found the Chabad movement in 2001 and started incorporating Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, whose music is found in synagogue services across the country, into his musical style. But not all of his inspiration comes nationally well-known musicians.
“My original mentors and good friends Mark and Jojo of Wookie Foot live and have a band in Minneapolis. When I was about 19 I drove my motorcycle across the country from NY and have a bit of nostalgia for the trip. I recorded some of my first music there [in Minneapolis],” which he says is one of the reasons he is returning to the Twin Cities to perform at Adath. “Besides that I think it’s a really cool city…in the summer.” (As of this writing, there’s still some remnants of snow on the ground here. Summer indeed.)
His most recent stops in Minneapolis have seen him performing at First Avenue, so this acoustic show at Adath will be a unique change of pace to the Matisyahu some people may be used to seeing.
About his acoustic show he says, “It is obviously more stripped back. More raw, more centered around the vocals and the lyrics.
His song “One Day” made it onto the Billboard Hot 100 and even became an anthem for the 2010 Olympics. This Adath show comes right before he’s set to release another album, his second “post-beard.” It’s called Akeda (a deeply Jewish reference to the Binding of Isaac). “I feel it is my most intimate work to date,” he tells TC Jewfolk. “It takes Jewish themes and ideas and brings them down into my personal and emotional experience in a way that I’ve been striving to achieve for my whole career.”
The show will also appeal to tweens and teir grandparents. “I think kids and adults alike need real people with real struggles similar to theirs to look to for inspiration.” And no matter what physical or spiritual changes he’s made, for Matisyahu it all comes back to the music.
“If it’s not represented through the music, what difference does it make?”
Tickets to An Evening with Matisyahu are on sale now. You can purchase them through the Adath website. Tickets range from $18 for limited view seats to $500. If you’re a fan of TC Jewfolk, you can use the code ‘YACHAD’ at checkout for $5 off. The Twin Cities Masa Alumni board has tickets available for $15 for Masa alumni or anyone 18-30 who’s interested in going on a Masa program. Email Andrea Nadel for details. There will be a free pre-party for young adults in the Adath social hall beginning at 6:30pm. Beer, wine and heavy appetizers will be served. Show starts at 8pm.