Matisyahu

As a high school student, my life is consumed by hopes, dreams, and pressure to do well and work hard. Students are given many opportunities to make a difference in the world. I took that opportunity and went to Belize with ten other students to help construct an attachment to a primary school. We worked with some of the school employees and got to experience a world so different from ours. We ended our trip on the island off of Belize called Caye Caulker. On the island a song we heard frequently was One Day by Matisyahu. It was inspiring to us. All humans live different lives, and have different stories to how they got to where they are today. One Day is an anthem for my generation. Life is a complicated and sometimes hard road to travel, but there’s always hope that one day we will all be equal, one day we will all live comfortably, and one day we will all be united in world peace.
Kat Devlin
Bolton, Vermont

Matisyahu (b. 1979)

Born Matthew Paul Miller, fans know him by his Hebrew name Matisyahu (“Gift of God”).  This Jewish reggae rapper weaves themes from Judaism in a musical style that draws on reggae, rock and hip hop.

As a teenager Miller was rebellious, got into drugs and was a “Phish-head.” But a combination of outdoor adventure experiences and connecting with his Jewish heritage turned his life around. He began getting into music while also studying Jewish spirituality. At 19 he joined the Lubavitch movement and took the name Matisyahu.

Over the next few years he developed his music and eventually began to expand his understanding of other streams of Judaism, deciding not to be confined to the Lubavitch movement. He strictly keeps the Sabbath with no concerts being performed on Friday nights. He would sing with the long hair, beard, hat, and wearing the fringed tzitzit undergarment of traditional Hasidic Jews. In 2005 he began touring the U.S. and Israel, and in 2006 his “King Without a Crown” broke into the Modern Rock Top 10.

Matisyahu has not only brought his Jewish spirituality into his music but has also engaged in interfaith music-making. He has performed with Kenny Muhammad, a Muslim beatboxer, and he collaborated on a recording of “One Day” with the Muslim musician Akon.

“One Day” has become a signature peace anthem. He sings: “All my life I’ve been waiting for, I’ve been praying for, For the people to say That we don’t wanna fight no more, There will be no more wars, And our children will play, One day.” “One day this will all change, treat people the same, stop with the violence, down with the hate.”

More recently Matisyahu shaved his beard, cut his hair, but still wears the yarmulke. His new appearance stirred a lot of controversy about whether he was still Jewish, but he asserted strongly that he still held his faith but was also growing and exploring spirituality beyond rules to deeper understanding. He said, “No more Chassidic reggae superstar. Sorry folks, all you get is me…no alias.” With his new look Matisyahu released a video of his hit song “Sunshine” with him celebrating with Arabs in the desert—no politics, but in the context of the Middle East it is a powerful visual message.

“One Day”:

“Sunshine”:

 

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Comments

  1. Patty Thompson says

    Matisyahu has been such an inspiration for me, too. I only stumbled upon him when he was a headliner for another smaller band I wanted to see. I was hooked. There is such a peace at his concert. We’ve seen him any time he comes remotely close to Detroit. He inspired my daughter to learn more about Judaism. I will review the lyrics of “One Day” when I need a lift; I listen to this song almost every day on my way to work, or when I’m feeling down. He has a new album, and I can’t wait to “get to know’ these words. I so agree he is an international peacemaker. Thank you for featuring Matisyahu!