Matisyahu reggaes on over from Olympics Hawaii eats section
By Dave Dondoneau
It's not easy to get a rise out of Matisyahu.
And that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's just that the 6-foot-5, bushy-bearded Hasidic Jewish reggae/rap singer seems remarkably grounded, whether he's talking about his religion, music or life on the road.
He has reason to pump his chest. Three days before playing back-to-back gigs at the Winter Olympics last weekend in Vancouver, he played a special concert in Israel with Infected Mushroom, an Israeli trance band, and NBC made "One Day," the first release off his 2009 "Light" album, the unofficial anthem of this year's Winter Olympics by using it as background music for its Olympic commercials.
Next up is his gig Thursday night at Pipeline Café, his first performance in Hawai'i since Band Camp V in 2007 at the Waikíkí Shell and at the Amphitheater on Maui that same week. He'll also be performing Feb. 27 on Kaua'i, Feb. 28 on Maui and March 1 on the Big Island.
One tune sure to get heads bobbing is the catchy "One Day."
"That song wasn't written with the Olympics in mind," Matisyahu said. "NBC just decided to use it, but it's very obvious where I got the inspiration for it. It's about hope and peace. I never look at one major global event for inspiration. I sort of deal with my songs more from introspection, from inside."
His Olympic memory?
"The weather was different than in Tel Aviv. We played outside in the rain," Matisyahu said. "It's winter everywhere else but Hawai'i."
Buoyed by "One Day," Matisyahu's "Light" album has spent 21 weeks atop the Billboard Reggae charts since it was released Aug. 21, and he continues to be in demand around the world.
Following his stops in Hawai'i, he heads home to New York City for a concert, then takes off for a world tour that includes South America and Australia.
The travel, not the music, is Matisyahu's biggest challenge. As a Hasidic Jew, Matisyahu honors the Shabbas — observed from sundown Friday until shortly after dark on Saturday night — each week.
During this time, followers aren't allowed to work, use electricity or travel on anything using fuel, including planes.
"I cut it close getting to Vancouver," Matisyahu said. "My flight was delayed because of the weather, and some flights were canceled. I ended up having to reroute to get to Vancouver in time and not travel on the Shabbas. I made it by an hour."
Island-hopping won't be a problem for Matisyahu, but because of Shabbas, he said, he's looking forward to visiting Kaua'i the most.
"That's where I'll be when it happens, so I'm hoping the rabbi will have a nice setup on the beach," he said.
"The last time I was in Hawai'i, I remember thinking it was one of the most beautiful places I've been in the world, particularly Maui. I'm looking forward to getting back."
Matisyahu is currently running a contest on his www.matisyahuworld.com Web site, for fans to submit their version of "One Day." The winner will collaborate with him on another project.
"The contest wasn't my idea, but I liked the thought of it," he said. "It's tough starting out in this business, and I know there are a lot of great musicians and producers out there who only need a break. It's kind of a cool opportunity.
"I've caught some breaks, but nothing like this (contest) when I was starting out. My first thing was open-mic nights. You sit around for three or four hours waiting for your two or three minutes on stage that didn't always come. It was rough.
"There never really was one big break for my career, more of an organic groundswell with little things building off each other."