Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Hasidic Reggae Star

His name is Matisyahu. He achieved some notoriety earlier this year and, as you're sitting there, scratching your heads, dig this:

He's great. Just read a bit from the website eMusic:

In Brooklyn, Hasidic Jews and Rastafarians share a taste for certain things: hats, unusual hairstyles, the Old Testament. You might add to that list Matisyahu, a 27-year-old reggae singer/rapper rooted in New York City's Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic community. The guy is an oddity, to be sure. A formerly dreadlocked Phish fanatic named Matthew Miller, Matisyahu found his calling after a random meeting with a rabbi in Washington Square Park which would be merely a curious story if his music weren't so powerful. Matisyahu has a commanding voice that slides gracefully between Bob Marley-style declamatory singing, the singing/rhyming style of dancehall acts like Sizzla and old-school Brooklyn street raps, spiced with bursts of rabbinical incantations, scatting and beatboxing. The delivery feels authentic and original (if sometimes a bit vague), with lyrics that generally praise God, riff on spiritual seeking and chant down Babylon. What's even more remarkable, in an era when reggae is largely about electronic dancehall burps and pro-forma covers of "Get Up, Stand Up," Matisyahu's band makes shape-shifting, reverb-rich music, colored with melodica, trumpet and bursts of guitar noodling that point to the singer's jazzy, jam-band roots without getting too abstract. It's melting-pot music in the best sense. - Will Hermes, eMusic

The man has talent, and his debut album Shake off the Dust...Arise was followed by a superb concert album, Live at Stubbs. If you're looking for something unusual to listen to, say shalom to Matisyahu. He's a lock for the 2005 Grammy for Best Jewish Reggae Album. You can get information on him here.

On a separate note, when the spirit moves me, I like to share my musical commuting experience. This morning I took the local R train all the way in (at 5:30 AM the express is scarcer). Much to my surprise, with one or two exceptions, the iPod Shuffle gave me a very blues/hardcore/punk/grunge-themed commute:

"Head On" by the Jesus and Mary Chain

"San Francisco" by Scott McKenzie

"London's Burning" by Silverchair - (A phenomenal cover of the song by The Clash)

"Hand in My Pocket" by JD Fortune (former contestant, now lead singer of INXS, covering Alanis Morrisette)

"Dark Was theNight, Cold Was the Ground" by Blind Willie Johnson (from Scorcese's Blues Documentary)

"Waiting" by Green Day (from Warning)

"Death Bell Blues" by R.L. Burnside (great Bluesman who passed recently in Memphis)

"Return of the Rat" by Nirvana

"Family Snapshot" by Peter Gabriel

"Faster than the Speed of Light" by Raven (1980's British Heavy Metal band that was Metallica's unrecognized step-cousin)

"I Hear You Knockin' " by Smiley Lewis (Scorcese's Blues again)

"Why" by Annie Lennox (from Saturday Night Live's great performances album, volume 1)

"Accidents Will Happen" by Elvis Costello & the Attractions

"Until the Next Time" by Peter Case (subject for a future blog, no doubt)

"Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2" covered by Limp Bizkit

"P5hing Me A*wy" by Linkin Park, Live in Texas (phenomenal CD)

"Even in His Youth (Demo)" from Nirvana's With the Lights Out Box

"What's That Noise?" by S.O.D. (Stormtroopers of Death)

"Stealing People's Mail" by The Dead Kennedys

"Strangest Tribe" by Pearl Jam from Lost Dogs, their rarities album

Speaking of PJ, my dream of winning the lottery and taking Melanie to the Stones tonight in Pittsburgh, with Pearl Jam opening, did not come true. Oh well.

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