Hasidic reggae artist Matisyahu has created a niche for his music where none before existed. Imbuing his music with spirit and faith without didactically preaching his beliefs, he’s managed to show another side of both the Jewish community and the reggae community without compromising either.
With a new album, Light, already recorded, and a preview EP, Shattered, to be released a day before his Indianapolis show, I spoke to a very enthused Matisyahu the day after he returned from a visit to Israel.
NUVO: How was Israel?
Matisyahu: It was amazing. I was there for Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur.
NUVO: Have you seen the openness of your religion influence other artists?
Matisyahu: To a certain degree. Kids come up to me in different towns and say, “You know, I’m Jewish, I’m Christian, or whatever it is and it’s been inspirational to see an artist stick to their guns in terms of their religious identity, and be able to cross over, to not have to be afraid and try to hide that aspect of themselves.
NUVO: How do you balance the family life, your faith, and touring all together?
Matisyahu: Well, it’s a juggling act. You constantly have to remind yourself what’s important, and have perspective. I try to stay on top of my game, and be there for my kids when they need me, and remain fully in the music, too.
NUVO: How is your music received by the Hasidic community?
Matisyahu: It depends on which part of the community. A lot of the ultra-orthodox community isn’t really even listening to any kind of modern music. There’re different levels of religiosity in the Hasidism. There’s certainly many Hasidic Jews who are coming to the shows and drawing inspiration from the music.
NUVO: Will you be playing new material at the show?
Matisyahu: For sure! We’ve got 16 new songs. As a band we’re feeling them out. I’m really happy with the recording. What I do live, it will be different. The songs take on a life of their own.