Matisyahu

Oy, Hassidic reggae

Anyone who's been subjected to Baha'i ska or Krishna punk can tell you that Christianity is not the problem with Christian rock -- it's the manipulation of secular music with religion. Reggae, on the other hand, is religious music in the first place, with a distinctly Judaic root. No surprise, then, that Matisyahu, Brooklyn's Hassidic reggae cantor, eludes the stilted craftiness of religious pop. His rapid dancehall toasting and Yiddish-inflected wails flow breezily along with their spiritual contents. On last year's Shake Off the Dust . . . Arise, it all feels like native ground, which is a real achievement for a guy who discovered both reggae and Judaism well after his juvenile formative years. His lyrics are made of prayers and exaltations rather than stories or politics, which could explain why they have yet to communicate the kind of universal power of Bob Marley's Rastafarianism or Van Morrison's Christianity. And then again, Matisyahu is all of 26.

 
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