The letters of our thoughts are the ideas present in our mind before they come to realization . . . Thoughts that are, yet not felt . . . The words of the subconscious . . . of the soul . . .


Monday, January 01, 2007

Matisyahu Has No Place To Be

I'm not a Reggae fan . . . far from it -the closest I get to the stuff is Jazz.
But, I do appreciate music, and I will listen to most styles (Note the use of the word styles i.e. in the realm of Jewish Music -to be discussed in a later post) save angry rock and rap.
Matisyahu's style was therefore somewhat fresh when compared to the stale 'bubble gum' music of most Modern Jewish Singers.
He was a breath of fresh air.
His second album, Youth had some nice tracks, but all in all . . . it justs sounds the same to me.

Last night my friend came into my room and showed me "No Place To Be" -Matis's latest work . . . mostly mixes of his more popular songs.

"A guy in the Chabad House I was in Shabbos told me that I should get this CD. He didn't like Youth, but said this one was by far better."

Artistically the new mixes of Jerusalem (Out of darkness comes light), Youth and Chop 'Em Down were nice . . . I enjoyed them.
Reggae buffs tell me that Matis's style is no longer Reggae, or at least not real Reggae . . . but as I said, I don't care for Reggae per se -so they were fine with me.
I wouldn't buy the CD -but it works (Though the second Jerusalem got on my nerves after a few seconds)

What I do wonder about is Matis's personal growth . . .
I know, it's a tired issue -besides is it my right to peak into someone else's personal growth?
Yet it makes for decent blogging.

Matis's music has become more secular, more mainstream . . . From Shebane Beis Hamikdash and We want
he's moved on to Youth and Message In A Bottle (Though Jerusalem seems to be keeping with the more religious element).
That's fine . . . to sell with Sony, to reach the crowd levels needed he needs to universalize his message.
But I wonder how much strongly he's holding onto his Hadar Hatorah education.

In a WNYC interview with John Schaefer on Sound Check

M. M.: "I wouldn't consider myself chassidic or a reggae musician it's sort of the box which people put me in."

J. S." . . . would you not consider yourself chassidic?"

M.M. "I am a Jewish person, and I am religious in that I keep the mitzvos and learn torah, I keep it in an orthodox way and I live in a chassidic neighborhood. But the chassidic movement started several hundred years ago and I don't think that that's the end of it -it's about looking forward and seeing what's the next development, where's the next place to go. I don't feel that there's one movement, like the chassidic movement, that totally sums up what I am in one word."

On the DVD that comes in tandem with No Place To Be, Matis seems to further distance himself from his Chassidic background -explaining how he is in truth a mix, of sorts, between the old him and the chassidic ideal . . . That ideally he would stay away from clubs, and other types of music (Note that Message in a Bottle in his new album is from a different band (The Police)) . . . but that's not him.

There does seem to be a contradiction to Matis's choice of venue and the chassidic ideal -but I find it odd that he excuses it by saying that he simply isn't up to that level . . . I have never been to his concerts, nor do I (as of now) plan to -but if he truly does mivtzoyim then I would assume that the situation is no worse then any other mivtzoyim scenario (For the record -in Venice I've worked with people in hot weather tend not to wear the most 'orthodox' clothes and the other week I put on Tefillin with a Russian youth who was high on other things besides Chassidus -those being the two most common complaints about where M. performs.)
He minced words, hemming and hawing . . .

I wonder why he explains himself away as saying that he isn't chassidic?
Is it in order to place a disclaimer on his actions? That he does not represent Chabad? Then why not say so? Say that he strives to the "Chassidic ideal" but needs to bring himself to perfection -that his individual actions do not represent the whole.
The Alter Rebbe claimed that during his imprisonment he could have been spared from the who ordeal had he renounced his connection to the Ba'al Shem Tov -yet to do so was unthinkable . . .

I don't think that Matis. has (truly) begun to look in other pastures . . .
Yet I don't think things are so simple as to be merely a disclaimer.
Perhaps, like most Ba'alei Tehsuvah -myself included, M. dived into things . . . Like a rubber-band, one stretches to the maximum, then must stop or come back to some degree when it reaches near snapping point. Matis began his carrier when he was still stretching out. Now he has settled into the 'him' that he is comfortable with (akin to what he mentions on the DVD) . . . the problem is that he has already sold himself to the masses as something else -something more then where he currently wishes to be. He's boxed in -but not by others -but by himself. In the name of the album, he has no place to be . . .
That's fine -it's human . . .
But when we view him -as Lubavitcher Chassidim- we must keep it in mind that.
Matis may mention ideas, sichos and the like -but he is not a makor, a source, on which to build our inspiration. He is good for some, but I feel that those with some hergesh will stay clear of it.
Perhaps it's do to my own beliefs -while I respect Manis, Yossi and the like, I don't feel that they should be viewed as quasi Rebbes . . . They may transmit the messages to us, and we can receive from them, but we out to use them as springboard towards the wellsprings from which they drink.

I did like the cover though.

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yitz.. said...

i would give him the benefit of th doubt.. it might be from a number of reasons, foremost to broadcast himself as simply a Jew, he can perhaps connect better to all the Jews out there who know next to nothing, if he's only chabad, then people will still think of him as 'different' from themselves.

Mottel said...

True, but why separate yourself from what you are? He sold himself as Chassidic Reggae -that was his original website with j-dub -why change? Why deny?

Chana said...

Your ending point is an obvious one. No one with access to any form of real Chassidus - should, nor can, use Matis or similar music as a source of learning and inspiration. He is a musician, albeit a powerful and effective one, but ultimately, he is a musician, and as you said, not a Quasi-Rebbe. If anything, I believe he tries to create the image of being a human who struggles and fights for identity as we all do.
Ultimately, he IS trying to promote a message to the masses - and has been successful beyond anyone's wildest expectations. Give him the credit.
Think of him for a moment, either in concert or his music-- and for a moment, try to give him a label you think would suit his style of Judaism. Personally, seeing a black hat in concert, with the lyrics of Jerusalem, Moshiach, Altar from the Ground -- I can think of nothing aside from a uniquely Chabad approach. Regarding his statements, I commend him for not shutting himself off in the "Chabad" box, both in his personal and professional life. As you may be aware, Chabad - as a movement and community - is in major crisis, and it's important for people to find their own ground, however unsettling this reality may be. He does not separate himself from Chabad as many have accused.. He just acknowledges his personal struggle and search for a root identity. Essentially, as it is with many of us, we KNOW our roots are in Chabad. With the state of affairs though, I feel it becomes difficult to bond with the movement in it's entirety [unless you're a 770 nut] and maintain some sense on unbiased normalcy. Not in any way saying all Chabad people are out-of-sync freaks -- but there's still some sense of discrepency many people struggle with.
Allow Matis his humanness. He is doing great things both within Chabad, and ultimately he is accomplishing the goal in an extroardinary way by spreading Chassidus to the masses.
Re: His wife. That rumor has no base. It is total bullocks.

Yossi! said...

Love the post!

Mottel said...

"If anything, I believe he tries to create the image of being a human who struggles and fights for identity as we all do.
Ultimately, he IS trying to promote a message to the masses - and has been successful beyond anyone's wildest expectations. Give him the credit."

Good point, and for what good he does (which is a lot -besides the fact that he is a frummer yid etc.) he does deserve credit . . .
But why say what your not -it's one thing not to scream Chabad, even not to mention it.
But to say, "I'm not Chassidic."

I am aware of our problems, they are real, but every group has them.
I stay a Lubavitcher because I know the truth is in it; even if those who sell it are far from perfection.

I think to some degree we in fact come to a similar conclusion.
You say:
"He just acknowledges his personal struggle and search for a root identity."
I agree as well, he boxed himself in right away -as soon as he became frum he began to sell himself and grow. Now that he is beginning to feel out who he really is and the ramifications there in -he must 'undo' part of his image.
Thanks for the feedback about the rumors.

Yossi, glad you liked.

Bagel Blogger said...

Hi Mottel,
As a prospective convert, I am not able to discuss where Matisyahu is or should be, I think as a Ba'alei Tehsuvah he's not doubt still growing, 'expanding' if you like.
What I do know is despite him possibly not being the perfect example for inspiration for some, a makor or source as you put it, for me and others who are moving towards becoming frum he is inspirational.
As another Jew, Cosmic X said recently,in essence, 'you don't forget your past, you simply reuse what you have to the benefit of others.'
I like Matisyahu, I like his music. I like his integrity from my perspective, despite the 'fame' he is who he is.

The thing I like most is he shows to the non frum world, goys included that Jews are people, not abstract strange beings trying to 'suck your blood'.
Until I know better, he's a source of inspiration and a bridge to understanding the gulf between Jews and non Jews.

...and I might and, a pretty cool example of being orthodox and still 'hip'. Which in the States, especially, can only help young Jews feeling lost, to find their way back

Shalom Aaron
Visit: Bagelblogger

Mottel said...

I agree that Matis is very inspirational and he does hold an important position in showing people coming closer to Judaism that they need not become 'square'.
The very fact that an Orthodox Jew can be do successful is an inspiration in and of itself.
I made my statements only in light of how we, who have already come close -or were born so- should view his work etc.