Hasidic Reggae

by | Dec 20, 2005

Back in November, a bearded beatboxer named Matisyahu teamed up with Saul Williams onstage at the mtvU Woodie Awards to deliver one of the most talked-about live performances of the year.

For many, it was their first experience of the artist, born Matthew Miller, and his unique fusion of reggae, hip-hop and Jewish folk. But Matisyahu’s growing fanbase has been charting the Hasidic MC’s progress for a while now.

According to Wikipedia, Matisyahu was not brought up as an Orthodox Jew. He turned to Orthodox Judaism around 2001 and began playing with the Jewish band Pey Dalid. He counts among his musical inspirations Bob Marley, Phish, and Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. His fans are of different walks of life, religions, and ethnicities. He sometimes performs with Kenny Muhammad, a Muslim beatboxer.

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, Sizzla, Capleton, or Junior Kelly, but with the upbeat message of Luciano, Bushman and Everton Blender, and vocal dexterity of Barrington Levy.