Q&A with Matisyahu, Who Performs Tonight at The Moore


Matis solo.JPG
Jonathan Cunningham
There was a time when Hasidic reggae singer, Matisyahu was viewed by some as a sort of a parody stuck between two worlds


Q&A with Matisyahu, Who Performs Tonight at The Moore

  • Q&A with Matisyahu, Who Performs Tonight at The Moore

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    Matis solo.JPG
    Jonathan Cunningham
    There was a time when Hasidic reggae singer, Matisyahu was viewed by some as a sort of a parody stuck between two worlds --one overly Jewish (Lubavitch to be exact), and one that was faux Jamaican. When he first came out in 2004, Matisyahu garnered a lot of attention for his reggae and hip-hop influenced recordings from his debut album, Shake Off the Dust...Arise, but a lot of people were quick to write him off without really giving his music a listen. In the five years since, he's become a burgeoning world music star and his recordings have gained more of an audience because of it.

    He's currently on tour with another world music star, Somali rapper K'naan, and both artists will be at The Moore theater tonight at 8 p.m. After the jump, check out a Q&A with Matisyahu as he talks about his new album, traveling to Jamaica to record parts of it, and the dynamic of being Jewish and touring with a Muslim like K'naan.

    SW: Hey man, so are you touring to drum up support for your upcoming album?

    Matisyahu: The album [Light] comes out August 25th but we don't really tour in regards to the record. We did a three month tour in the fall, we're doing a two month tour right now, this is all prior to the record being out. We just travel and tour regardless.

    How much time did you spend recording the album?

    Its kind of, well, the process was almost three years long. The actually recording process was a year...maybe a little more. The writing, the conceptualization, the ideas, writing the music, recording process...going back in. That entire process was almost three years long. But I was working with the main producer in the studio for nearly 10 months.

    Was it All done in U.S.?

    We went to Jamaica to work on a couple of things for about a week. We mainly worked with a kid named Stephen McGregor. He's dope. We worked on two tracks, one called "Smash Lies" and the other is called "Motivate." Both are going to be on the record. But yeah, it was mostly done in the U.S.

    Interesting...you have this reggae vibe to you, what made you want to go to Jamaica specifically?

    Well, I wanted to do some work with Sly and Robbie. I wanted them to record on some stuff. Mainly Robbie, I wanted him to play bass on a couple of tracks. And also, I had never been to Jamaica so I kind of used the opportunity to check out Jamaica.

    How did you think you were perceived as someone who does reggae from the United States?

    I think people were pretty cool. Stephen was really cool. I met Sean Paul while I was down there. He was really cool. My interactions were somewhat minimal with folks, but everyone was really positive about what I do.

    On the new record, has your sound changed and what's different about this album versus the last album?

    My sound: its developed, it's evolved. I don't like to stay stagnant, it's about creating something that's brand new. Its about figuring out what's different than what you said before and learning how to say it differently. I don't sit still in terms of listening to one type of music. I listen to all styles. I worked with a kid named Ooah from the Glitch Mob, working with Stephen, worked with a friend of mine name Trevor Hall who does more acoustic guitar. Beats-wise, I kind of went more hip-hop rather than reggae and one-drop beats. I've always been more into hip-hop beats. I didn't think there needed to be a chuck or a bubble all the time in the choruses. The bass lines are still kinda heavy, dub influenced. Vocally, I'm singing in different styles.Trying to find my voice without using an accent or a reggae tinge. Being able to rap or sing melodically without using an accent.

    Have you taken any criticism at all about using patois and not being from Jamaica?

    I seen artists who grew up in New York and not from Jamaica...who speak with a Jamaican accent. With me, I wasn't trying to imitate anything, but I was so heavily influenced by that sound and style of singing, that when I finally started singing, that's just the vibe that came out. People I know were always kind of cool to me about that though and not too over critical.

    You're touring with K'naan right now. That's an interesting dynamic with him being Muslim and you being Jewish.

    We did some touring in the fall together, we did some shows and I was immediately taken by him. On this tour, I wanted to do more shows with him. Musically, our styles are similar. They're both kind of hip-hop incluenced, world music influenced, reggae influenced, he sings, he raps. There's a lot of similarities. Fans of my music will gravitate toward him. It's conscious music, it's positive. The fact that he comes from a Muslim background and I come from a Jewish one, there's a difference there but there are similarities as well. Both are monotheistic religions. But just him as a person. I've seen him and how he holds himself and how he's navigating through the music business. I like his style. So it's been cool to do shows with him.

    Do you think there's anything interesting about bringing a Jewish and Muslim audience together on this tour?

    I can't say that the majority of people who come out to my shows are Jewish. In South Florida maybe or places where there's a higher Jewish population. But when we're doing a 30-40 city tour across America, the majority of the audience isn't Jewish. It's people who are conscious and looking for more positive music. That's what we're able to give them on this tour and it's working out really well.

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