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Spotlight on Matisyahu

Spotlight on Matisyahu


The last time we caught up with Matthew Paul Miller — better known by his nom de guerre “Matisyahu” — the world was a decidedly different place (“Six Questions with Jewish Rapper Matisyahu” Nov. 28, 2011” Nov. 28, 2011). Barack Obama was President, Donald Trump succeeding him sounded like a punchline to a bad joke, COVID was on no one’s radar, and antisemitism remained stuck in the darker shadows of the world’s underbelly. Given the state of things now, it seemed like a good time to reconnect with the beloved reggae/hip-hop artist. Here, he talks about the spike in Jewish hatred, his visit to Israel after the Hamas terror attack on 10/7, and watching his son perform…

French Davis: We last spoke on the phone back in 2011. Given how much the world has changed since, if you could send a message to yourself back then, what would you have said?

Matisyahu: I would say to take care of myself. Not be too hard on myself. Enjoy the journey, enjoy the ride, try to not let it get too heavy.

FD: I saw in another interview you gave that your son is in Israel (or at least was two months ago). How is he? How is your family dealing with this new reality?

M: My family is fine. My son is in Israel; he’s good. I was just in Israel, performing for the troops and families of the hostages and the survivors from the NOVA festival. I made a video there for a new song I have coming soon called “Ascent,” which I’ve been performing on tour. My son Laivy even had a show in Tel Aviv while I was there, so I got to watch that which was very special for me. Thank you for asking about my family.

FD: Of course! Here we are, more than 100 days since Hamas’s Oct. 7 terror attack in Israel and you’re back on tour. How has this impacted you personally, and how has this impacted your art?

M: Personally, it’s done this thing where it’s made being Jewish the number one focus in my life again. There was a time when I was starting out and becoming religious, being Hasidic and everything was centered around Judaism, around being Jewish, what it felt like to walk down the street being a Hasid, and how people might react to that, and how my own identity was focused and centered around that primarily. As time has gone on, I’ve been touring, mainly in America but around the world, and interacting with fans and people all over the world and started to realize that my main fanbase is not Jewish and my main world that I’m living in is not Jewish. And while it was still important to me it became less centralized. After Oct 7 it has become the main focal point again, Israel, Jews, being Jewish, what that all means in this world. It’s been a massive change. 

FD: One thing we’ve seen since is that antisemitism knows no particular political party here — the horseshoe theory is proven. Where does that leave us as Jews, in your opinion?

M: There is a ton of antisemitism in the world right now. A lot of Jews in America are very assimilated and immersed in worlds where they’re surrounded by non-Jews, who are uninformed, confused, and ignorant. There are a lot of lost Jews right now in the world and a big part of me going out on tour, I hopefully can offer some type of strength, stability, inspiration, hope, and connection. I’m hoping to see all those people come together at my shows on this tour. Hopefully, all the non-Jews who are supportive of Israel and supportive of the Jewish people also come out and feel connected and one with us. In terms of the rest of the world, and antisemitism, we don’t know what’s going to happen with them but we do know we have to stay strong and united more than ever.

FD: What are you saying to your gentile friends who are supportive and asking how they can help combat this new flood of Jewish hate?

M: Ask your Jewish friends how they’re doing and how they feel. You can ask for some explanation and understanding about it. Speak out, stand up for us. God knows the Jewish people have stood up for everybody else and now that it’s our turn, we’re seeing that people are not standing up and turning their backs on us. It’s very painful and hopefully that will change.

FD: What is it you hope people take away from your show here at the Ogden Theatre in March?

M: I’m hoping that people feel a sense of connection, a sense of joy, something powerful at my shows. That is the purpose so hopefully people will feel connected with the music and each other. 

Matisyahu plays at the Ogden Theatre in Denver on March 2 at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $33.50, visit www.OgdenTheatre.com for more information.



French Davis
Meet Dave Flomberg | Writer, musician, creative director (aka French Davis). There is so much to say about Dave aka French that we think you should read these articles: https://yellowscene.com/2020/02/29/french-davis-a-master-of-many/ ••• https://shoutoutcolorado.com/meet-dave-flomberg-writer-musician-creative-director

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