While unpacking into my new place (for the next few weeks anyway) I listened to RadioNew Zealand's Saturday shows which are the best- or at least those most closely aligned with my tastes and interests. My highlight this week was an interview with Matisyahu, the Hasidic Reggae dude. I was introduced to Matisyahu by my daughter who, knowing my passions for Jewish culture and Jah music, was pleased to turn me onto a new performer who bridges those worlds.
Although he was raised a Reconstructionist Jew (one of my favourite kinds) as a young adult, already heavily into reggae music, Matisyahu joined the Crown Heights Lubavitch community and now lives a fully frum (observant) lifestyle. You may question how it's possible to be a pop music performer and an orthodox Jew but the interview demonstrated it in action. Sam Wicks, the RNZ interviewer, informed Matisyahu that he was calling on a Shabbat in New Zealand. Matisyahu asked if Sam was Jewish and when he said yes, Matisyahu politely but swiftly ended the interview. When they spoke again two weeks later, Matisyahu explained that he couldn't be the instrument for another Jew to break the Shabbat injunction against working, even if Sam didn't have a problem with it. He is well known for refusing to perform concerts on Friday nights (Shabbat goes from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday) but he said it was the first time that an interview across the date line had been an issue.
Anyway, the eventual interview was played along with a good selection of songs from his album showing his range of reggae, rap and beatbox styles, his religious lyrics and mixture of English, Hebrew and Yiddish languages. You can listen for yourself by downloading the Music 101 show for 27 May at the RNZ website.