Matisyahu: Making Music that Moves

Beliefnet interviews the reggae singer on his fans, his music and the connection he shares with it all.

BY: Jennifer E. Jones

 

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“Where I lived in Brooklyn, there’s a shul synagogue, but it’s a central point in the community. Everybody is always in there praying three times a day,” he describes.

He was approached by a man who wanted him to meet a boy who was suffering from cancer. Matisyahu didn’t find it to be an unusual request, and eventually he met Elijah. “We connected right away. I really took to him. Special, special kid. We stayed in touch over the years. He would come to shows. I went to his bar mitzvah. Things were good for a while.”

Doctors were not optimistic about Elijah’s condition; however, he lived much longer than expected. “They didn’t think he was going to make it. They told him months, and he lasted for years,” Matisyahu says. “In the end, we had a show and he came to the show and then got sick and went back into the ICU. Then we knew there wasn’t a lot of time. We recorded a song. We didn’t know that he was going to die until the next morning.”

After Elijah passed away, Matisyahu went into the studio and finished the song that he wrote with the young man. What came out of it was “Elijah’s Song”. The creation has a dedicated Web site and proceeds from sales go towards Elijah’s mother to help pay for hospital costs. She also lost her husband to the same disease.

Matisyahu’s music matters to his fans a great deal, and he makes the concert experience to match. He says, “The main thing is to give people an experience through the music – a way to be in the moment and use the music as a tool for that. When people come to a show, they can lose themselves in the music and have some inner experience."

Matisyahu Crowd SurfingLater that night, Matisyahu took to the stage like he was born to be there. When he dives into the crowd, he makes his way to his feet, supported by the fans below him. He looks around at all the people who he has entertained and inspired this evening. And he breaks into a grateful smile knowing he’s accomplished exactly what he’s meant to do.

Matisyahu's latest album is Live at Stubb's Vol. II. To see current tour dates, visit his Web site.

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