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November 28, 2015 / 16 Kislev, 5776
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Posts Tagged ‘Matisyahu’

Matisyahu Responds to Spain and BDSers

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

Nearly everyone you would expect to know already knows that the Jewish musician known as Matisyahu was invited to leave a music festival in the Spanish port city of Valencia. The organizers of Rototom, the 22nd European Reggae Festival kept pressuring him to make a political statement, the booted him when he refused to express support for the creation of a Palestinian Arab state.

There has been much speculation about exactly what happened and what was Matisyahu’s response.

Here is what Matisyahu said about it:

The festival organizers contacted me because they were getting pressure from the BDS movement. They wanted me to write a letter, or make a video, stating my positions on Zionism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to pacify the BDS people. I support peace and compassion for all people. My music speaks for itself, and I do not insert politics into my music. Music has the power to transcend the intellect, ideas, and politics, and it can unite people in the process. The festival kept insisting that I clarify my personal views; which felt like clear pressure to agree with the BDS political agenda. Honestly it was appalling and offensive, that as the one publicly Jewish-American artist scheduled for the festival they were trying to coerce me into political statements. Were any of the other artists scheduled to perform asked to make political statements in order to perform? No artist deserves to be put in such a situation simply to perform his or her art. Regardless of race, creed, country, cultural background, etc, my goal is to play music for all people. As musicians that is what we seek. – Blessed Love, Matis

The musician pressed exactly the right point. “Were any of the other artists scheduled to perform asked to make political statements in order to perform?” No.

The Jews are treated differently.

The “One Day” Generation‏

Monday, August 18th, 2014

Depression is serious. But if there is anything that the news of Robin Williams’ death has taught us is that as long as there’s hope, hope for a brighter tomorrow, then God willing we will merit to see many light-filled days to come.

Each generation has its own lyrics that typify it. In the early 70s it was John Lennon’s Imagine. In the early 90s it was Nirvana’s Nevermind. And in this generation it is Matisyahu’s One Day.


We were classmates so I’m partial. But I don’t care. I don’t care because the thought that I had for this article is a thought that may help someone out there.

Before I quote some of the lyrics, I should first explain the progression that is being made. In the previous article, we called the generation of the 60s and early 70s the generation of dreamers or imagination, which I related to the World of Creation in Kabbalah, the World of Thought. The “nevermind” generation of the 90s relates to the World of Formation, the World of Emotion and to the feeling of not being heard.

But now we find ourselves in the World of Action. On the one hand this means that we are living in a very special time. A time when actions are paramount as in the saying of the sages, “action is the most essential.”

There is also another saying, “the end of action is first in thought.” This is the generation to take all the good thoughts and dreams of the 60s and 70s (and all of human history) and finishes the job.

How do we finish the job? By moving mountains and shouting from the hilltops? Maybe that worked in the 60s for The Sound of Music, but this again was just another fiction, a dream. And as with any dream, there was some good mixed in with a whole lot of nonsense.

So what now? What is our job now? This may surprise you, but the biggest thing that most of us can do in this generation consists of the smallest acts. To smile and greet people on the street. To give tzedakah (charity) each and every day (except for Shabbat and holidays). And for those who struggle with life itself, to get out of bed each morning to live another day. In this generation it’s the small but repeated acts of goodness and kindness that count the most.

One more thing before I quote from the One Day lyrics. This time about the title of Matisyahu’s song itself. Why was the wording “one day” chosen?

The inner reason is that it reminds us about a seven week period each year called the Counting of the Omer, and the spiritual growth process during that period. To quote from Inner.org:

“Though the Counting of the Omer lasts for 49 days (from the end of the first day of Passover to the day before Shavu’ot) the way that we count explicitly states that we are adding days. We do not say “Today is the first day of the Omer,” “Today is the second day of the Omer,” etc… but rather on the first day we say, “Today is one day to the Omer”; on the second day we say, “Today are two days to the Omer” etc., and we do not “today is the second day of the Omer” and so on.”

The article then goes on to explain the significance of 49 (the sum of all numbers from 1 to 49).

Jewish Rapper Kosha Dillz: from Super Bowl to Super Star

Monday, February 11th, 2013

A Jewish rapper?  This one is not just Jewish, he calls himself “Kosha Dillz” and mixes Hebrew and Israeli imagery with his rapping.

Dillz, born Rami Matan Even-Esh,  grew up in New Jersey, the child of Israeli immigrants.

When Dillz spoke with The Jewish Press he immediately laid it out clearly that he is very proud of his Judaism and his connection to Israel, and that although he plays with the images and the ideas, it is something he takes seriously.

When asked whether it was difficult to be a focused Jew and a west coast rapper, Dillz confessed that the hardest part for him is dating.  He’s 31 years old and a cohen, which places a delicate limitation on the population from which he can choose.

Dillz began rapping at age 17, constantly traveling into New York City from his home in New Jersey during high school, and later from Rutgers University, where he was on the wrestling team and studied creative writing.

During the years of commuting into New York City, Dillz became heavily involved with the freestyle battle rap scene –  a form of urban combat in which challengers compete based on the quality of their impromptu rapping, most famously portrayed in the film biography of Eminem, 8 Mile – and with the New York Hispanic world of the Nuyorican Poetry Cafe in the late 1990s.

After Dillz finished college, he became caught up with drugs and alcohol and even spent some time in jail.  But eventually, Dillz cleaned himself up and put his life back on track.

Part of the clean-up was re-embracing his Jewishness and his connection to Israel, where he spent summers throughout his childhood. Dillz wears a large gold Magen David around his neck and incorporates images of Israel and Hebrew words into his songs.

By constantly pushing himself forward – leaping onstage the moment the opportunity is offered, showing up at parties and events to which he may not have been invited – this Israeli-American rapper from New Jersey seems poised on the brink of super stardom.

He has already appeared with Jewish superstars like Matisyahu, as well as with such high profile rappers as Snoop Dogg, Drake and underground freestyle legend C-Rayz Walz. There is a character in the NBA football game NBA 2K11 named after Dillz, and he’s worked with RZA of Wu Tang Clan fame.

If there is a Jewish current pop culture trivia game, Dillz should definitely be in it.  He told The Jewish Press how he has that claim.  “I was working with RZA at Rock the Bells (the largest U.S. annual Hip Hop event), when RZA told me to join him at the BET Hip Hop Awards.”  BET is the Black Entertainment Television channel, and the Hip Hop Awards are watched by millions.

He was in the right place at the right time: Dillz became the first Hip Hop artist to walk the red carpet at the BET Hip Hop Awards wearing a kippah.  And Dillz was even featured in a Cyphers segment (where there’s an eclectic mixing of new artists doing freestyle rapping) of the Awards program. He scored another first: first BET Cypher star whose rap included Hebrew.

Dillz explained how important it is to him to act as a bridge between Blacks and Jews, as both are central in his life. When asked what is the biggest misconception Jews have about the world of Black hip-hop and rappers, and the biggest misconception in the current Black music world about Jews, Dillz said,

There is a fear of interaction between both due to misunderstanding and miscommunication. I would love to see both groups come together for a concert and dance with each other. We both come from very similar struggles like slavery and persecution, and we both pride ourselves in independence and hard work.

As he humbly points out, Dillz has combined the best and the worst of both worlds: he’s been a Jewish criminal drug addict, and now he’s becoming a star in the Black music world of rap and hip-hop who is an observant, proud Jew.

A trilingual rapper and rhymer – he is also fluent in Spanish, Dillz incorporates humor and hustle into his creative work.  He has packed more angst, personal growth and physical traveling into his 31 years than many aged professionals, but it is his ability to “hustle” that propels Dillz forward.

Matisyahu’s Interview with CNN

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

Formerly Hasidic reggae star Matisyahu participated in a candid interview with CNN, discussing his departure from observant Jewish life and his connection to his religion.

Just following the release of his album “Spark Seeker”, and a year after he shaved off his beard and publicized it in a controversial Twitter post, Matisyahu said that even though he no longer lives according to Torah laws, he is still as Jewish as ever.

“Judaism is just such a huge part of who I am.  I don’t think I could separate that at this point,” Matisyahu told CNN.  “I spent 10 years sort of really immersed heavily in the practice and in the study of Judaism. ..it’s still such a part of me that it’s inescapable.”

Regarding his departure from Chassidism which began with his abandonment of the Chabad movement, Matisyahu said “I started out in the Chabad movement, and I started pretty closed up, with the idea of there being that “this is it.” I bought into that fully. I really explored in depth the Chabad ideology. Then I started to open up. … I started to explore other types of Hasidism. … Eventually I began to regain trust into my own intuition and my own sense of right and wrong. I began to realize that there were a lot of things within that lifestyle that were actually holding me back…. and keeping me from tasting a certain freedom of expression.”

When pressed, he said that he ultimately walked away from Orthodox Judaism because “When I’m talking about all the heaviness, I’m really talking about the rules. So at a certain point … I basically said, “I don’t need to do all these things. It’s my life, I can choose how I want to worship God, what words I want to say. I can say less words.” And once I let go of that, just sort of like a freedom that opened up that I began to taste, this freedom in my life that I had been missing.”

Matisyhau said that the professional implications of shaving his beard – a decision he came to over the course of years – did not concern him, as he believed in the power of his music, and said he did not believe he had garnered fans because of the beard.  He did, however, say the beard helped “put me on the map and get me attention”.

Matisyahu said he tells his three children that “nobody knows the way” when it comes to religion, and that while teachers and others may represent Judaism as encompassing Torah laws, “you have to decide in your life what’s real for you”.  While he infuses their lives with elements of Judaism which are “enriching and meaningful”, he does not remind the children to do things like wear a kippah or say blessings on food.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/matisyahus-interview-with-cnn/2012/12/30/

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