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Mathew Paul Miller a.k.a. Matisyahu

Mathew Paul Miller a.k.a. Matisyahu

Class of 1996

Matisyahu is the Hebrew and stage name of Matthew Paul Miller (born June 30, 1979, West Chester, Pennsylvania), an American Jewish reggae musician.
Known for blending traditional Jewish themes with reggae and rock sounds, Matisyahu is most recognizable for being a member of Chabad-Lubavitch, a chassidic group of Judaism. As such, Matisyahu stands out for wearing the traditional clothing of Hasidic Jews and not performing on the Sabbath. Since 2004, he has released three studio albums as well as one live album, two remix CDs and one DVD featuring a live concert, and a number of interviews. Through his short career, Matisyahu has teamed up with some of the biggest names in reggae production including Bill Laswell and duo Sly & Robbie.
Since his debut, Matisyahu has received positive reviews from both rock and reggae outlets. Most recently, he was named "Top Reggae Artist" of 2006 by Billboard.[1]


[edit]Early years
Matisyahu was born in West Chester, PA and his family eventually settled in White Plains, New York. He was brought up a Reconstructionist Jew, and sometimes performed under the alias MC Truth for MC Mystic's Soulfari band. He spent some time as a young man as a self-professed "deadhead," taking hallucinogens and following Phish on tour. [2] At 16, Matisyahu took part in a semester-long program that offers students first-hand exploration of Jewish heritage at Alexander Muss High School in Hod Hasharon, Israel. His experiences there significantly affected his feelings towards Judaism eventually leading to his decision to adopt Orthodox Judaism, becoming a baal teshuva around 2001 through Chabad of Washington Square. He is now a member of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic community in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York. Matisyahu finished high school at a wilderness program in Bend, Oregon.[3] Following this seminal event, Matisyahu began playing with the Jewish band Pey Dalid.[4]
Soon after his adoption of hasidism, Matisyahu began studying Torah at Hadar Hatorah, a yeshiva for returnees to Judaism where he wrote and recorded his first album. He counts Bob Marley, Phish,[5] God Street Wine and Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach among his musical inspirations and gives credit to Rabbi Simon Jacobson's book Toward a Meaningful Life for the lyrical inspiration to Youth's title track. As part of his faith, Matisyahu does not perform in concert on Friday nights in observance of the Jewish Sabbath.
Matisyahu is married to Tahlia Miller, the couple have a son, Laivy.[6]
In 2004, Matisyahu, after having signed with JDub Records, a not for profit record label that promotes Jewish musicians, released his first album, Shake Off the Dust...Arise produced by Alon Cohen for 12 Tribe Sound. At the time a relatively unknown musician, he did not rise to prominence until Bonnaroo 2005 when he talked Trey Anastasio of the band Phish, into letting him play a set, this would prove to be the event that launched his career.[7]
His next album, Live at Stubb's, released in 2005, was a live concert recorded in Austin, Texas. This concert, and Youth, his third album, both received critical and popular acclaim. Each album marks significant changes in Matisyahu's style, most markedly between Stubb's and Youth, when more rock music influences are evident. Since his second two albums became popular, Shake off the Dust has steadily risen in demand, fetching prices upwards of $30USD on online auction sites such as Ebay. Throughout 2005 and 2006, Matisyahu toured extensively in the United States, Canada and Europe; including a number of stops in Israel. In late 2006, Matisyahu released his fourth album, No Place to Be, a remix album featuring rerecordings and remixes of songs from all three of his earlier albums, as well as a cover of "Message in a Bottle" by The Police.
The live version of the song "King Without a Crown", broke into the Modern Rock Top 10 in 2006. The accompanying video and new album - Youth - produced by Bill Laswell were released on March 7, 2006 and on March 16, Youth was Billboard magazine's #1 "Digital Album". In 2006, Matisyahu appeared once again at Bonnaroo, this time performing a solo set in front of an estimated crowd of over 80,000 people.
In spring 2006, right before the release of Youth, Matisyahu cut ties with his managers at JDub Records, which resulted in some controversy due to Matisyahu's role in the founding of the label. Contrary to popular belief, JDub managed his act, but was not his record label at this point in time. [8]
In April 2007 it was confirmed that Matisyahu, along with another band yet to be announced, would open for 311 on their Summer Unity Tour 2007. The tour will run from late June to Late August and will feature shows all across the country.
[edit]Artistic style

The music, developed partly with his backing band Roots Tonic has a unique sound, mixing reggae, traditional rap, and guitar solos typical of rock music. He sometimes performs with Kenny Muhammad, a Muslim beatboxer. Matisyahu's major label debut album was produced by avant-garde musician and producer Bill Laswell, with minor contribution by pop producers Jimmy Douglass and the Ill Factor.
Most of his songs are almost entirely in English with just a few words of Hebrew and Yiddish sprinkled in. His reggae vocal style is along the lines of traditional Rasta Roots stylings mixed with dub sound. The easiest comparison would be similar to the conscious and cultural sides of Buju Banton, Sizzla, Capleton, or Junior Kelly, but with the upbeat message of Luciano, Bushman and Everton Blender, and vocal dexterity of Barrington Levy. The production of the tracks draws from King Tubby, Augustus Pablo, Mikey Dread, and Linval Thompson. Similarities to the Foundation Sound of the late 1970s and 1980s would be accurate, and comparisons to Morgan Heritage likewise, would not be wrong.
However, he mixes in contemporary stylings of rap and beatboxing, similar to Sublime, as well as the traditional Hazzan style of Jewish cantors and Hasidic nigunim. The generally critical New York Times' Kelefa Sanneh notes that "His sound owes a lot to early dancehall reggae stars like Barrington Levy and Eek-a-Mouse."[9] The Chicago Tribune's Kevin Pang has described a Matisyahu performance as "soul-shaking brand of dancehall reggae, a show that captures both the jam band vibe of Phish and the ska-punk of Sublime." Reviewers generally agree that Matisyahu may disappoint reggae purists, but acknowledge the unique blend of musical traditions that Matisyahu harnesses generally please the people who see his performances. Matisyahu's style has been compared to Jew da Maccabi, an Orthodox Jew from Florida who includes religious lyrics within a musical style derived from hip-hop.[10]
In an interview with Chabad.org, the flagship Chabadnik Web site, Matisyahu states that "All of my songs are influenced and inspired by the teachings that inspire me. I want my music to have meaning, to be able to touch people and make them think. Chasidism teaches that music is 'the quill of the soul.' Music taps into a very deep place and speaks to us in a way that regular words can't." This fact is clearly evident in the lyrics of his songs. [11]
[edit]Origin of his name

According to Matisyahu, while he was given a bris and a Hebrew name, his parents soon forgot the name and began calling him 'Matisyahu' as the Hebraic version of the English name Matthew (his secular name). When his parents later found his naming certificate, they discovered that his actual Hebrew name was Feivish Hershel. However, he was advised by his Rabbis to continue using the Hebrew name with which he had grown up. [12]

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