Matthew Paul Matisiyahu (Matitiyahu Shaul Miller) - biography
Matthew Paul Miller (born June 30, 1979), better known by his Hebrew name Matisyahu (Hebrew:מתתיהו) is an American Hasidic Jewish reggae musician. Known for blending traditional Jewish themes with Reggae, rock and hip hop beat-boxing sounds, Matisyahu's single "King Without a Crown" was a Top 40 hit. Since 2004, he has released three studio albums as well as two live albums, two remix CDs and one DVD featuring a live concert. Through his career, Matisyahu has worked with Bill Laswell and reggae producers Sly & Robbie.
Matisyahu was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania as Matthew Miller; his family eventually settled in White Plains, New York. He also has a younger sister named Julie.
He was brought up a Reconstructionist Jew, and attended Hebrew school at Bet Am Shalom, a synagogue located in White Plains. He performed for over a year under the alias MC Truth in Bend, Oregon's Soulfori band. He spent some time as a young man as a self-professed "Phish-head," taking hallucinogens and following the rock band Phish on tour.
In 1996, Matisyahu took part in a semester-long program that offers students first-hand exploration of Jewish heritage at the Alexander Muss High School in Hod Hasharon, Israel. His experiences there significantly affected his feelings towards Judaism eventually leading to his decision to adopt Orthodox Judaism, becoming a Baal Teshuva around 2001. Initially he found his way to the Carlebach Shul on the West Side of Manhattan. Matisyahu then found his way to Chabad of Washington Square. He finished high school at a wilderness program in Bend, Oregon. Matisyahu then began playing with the Jewish band Pey Dalid.
From 2001 through July 2007, Matisyahu was affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic community in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York. However, as of July 17, 2007, he told the Miami New Times in an interview that he no longer "necessarily" identifies with the Lubavitch movement. In the interview, he stated that "...the more I'm learning about other types of Jews, I don't want to exclude myself. I felt boxed in." Additionally, in the fall of 2007, while on a family vacation spent primarily in Jerusalem's Nachlaot neighborhood, he expressed interest in another Hasidic sect, that of Karlin. As of November 2007 he has confirmed a preference to pray at the Karliner synagogue in Boro Park where the custom is to ecstatically scream prayers; however he continues to reside in Crown Heights because of his wife's affinity for the community.
Soon after his adoption of hasidism, Matisyahu began studying Torah at Hadar Hatorah, a yeshiva for returnees to Judaism where he wrote and recorded his first album. He counts Bob Marley, Phish, God Street Wine and Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach among his musical inspirations and gives credit to Rabbi Simon Jacobson's book Toward a Meaningful Life for the lyrical inspiration to Youth's title track. As part of his faith, he does not perform in concert on Friday nights in observance of the Jewish Sabbath. An exception to this occurred at a 2007 concert in Fairbanks, Alaska, which was allowed because the sun didn't set until 2:00 a.m.
Matisyahu's wife's name is Tahlia; They have two sons. As of late 2010, Matisyahu and his wife are vegans.
In 2004, Matisyahu, after having signed with JDub Records, a not-for-profit record label that promotes Jewish musicians, released his first album, Shake Off the Dust...Arise. At Bonnaroo 2005, Trey Anastasio of the band Phish invited him for a guest spot on his set.
His major label debut album was produced by Bill Laswell, with minor contribution by pop producers Jimmy Douglass and the Ill Factor.
His live album, Live at Stubb's, released in 2005, was recorded at a concert in Austin, Texas was followed by the studio album Youth.
In 2005 and 2006 he toured extensively in the United States, Canada and Europe; and made a number of stops in Israel, including a performance as the supporting act for Sting in June 2006. In late 2006, he released No Place to Be, a remix album featuring re-recordings and remixes of songs from all three of his earlier albums, as well as a cover of "Message in a Bottle" by The Police.
The live version of the song King Without a Crown, broke into the Modern Rock Top 10 in 2006. The accompanying video and album, Youth, produced by Bill Laswell, were released on March 7, 2006. On March 16, Youth was Billboard magazine's number-one Digital Album. In 2006, he appeared once again at Bonnaroo, this time performing a solo set.
In spring 2006, right before the release of Youth, he cut ties with his managers at JDub Records. JDub managed his act, but was not his record label.
At the 2007 Slamdance Film Festival, the film Unsettled, in which Matisyahu appears, won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary Feature. While attending the festival, he performed in an impromptu concert at the Park City Film Music Festival in Park City, Utah. In the summer of 2007 he joined 311 on their Summer Unity Tour. He also performed in the 2008 documentary Call + Response.
His third studio album, Light was released on August 25, 2009, along with the live EP Live at Twist & Shout. From July 10 to July 30, 2010, Matisyahu (along with The Dirty Heads) supported Sublime with Rome (the new version of long-defunct ska punk band) on their US tour.
In November 2009, NBC used Matisyahu's song "One Day" as background music for their advertisement of the Olympic games. This stirred up speculation that "One Day" may become the theme song for the 2010 Olympics. However, it remained only NBC's top pick, and was not announced to be the theme song.
On August 2, 2010, Matisyahu revealed to OC Weekly that he has been writing new songs for his next album, which should be recorded in a couple weeks.
Matisyahu performance in 2005. Matisyahu fuses the contemporary styles of rap, beatboxing, and hip-hop in general, with the more traditional vocal disciplines of jazz's scat singing and Judaism's hazzan style of songful prayer—more often than not rolling it all into a dominant background of reggae music. The New York Times' Kelefa Sanneh wrote that "His sound owes a lot to early dancehall reggae stars like Barrington Levy and Eek-a-Mouse." The Chicago Tribune's Kevin Pang described a Matisyahu performance as "soul-shaking brand of dancehall reggae, a show that captures both the jam band vibe of Phish and the ska-punk of Sublime." Matisyahu's style has been compared to JewDa Maccabi, an Orthodox Jew from Florida who includes religious lyrics within a musical style derived from hip-hop.Coming from his Jewish beliefs and compounding his use of the hazzan style, Matisyahu's lyrics are mostly English with more than occasional use of Hebrew and Yiddish.
In 2006, Matisyahu stated that "All of my songs are influenced and inspired by the teachings that inspire me. I want my music to have meaning, to be able to touch people and make them think. Chasidism teaches that music is 'the quill of the soul.' Music taps into a very deep place and speaks to us in a way that regular words can't."
In 2009, he said about his recently released album Light, "I think the vast majority of people that respect what I do are willing to move with me. I think it's not so much about genres or styles of music as it is about expressing the emotion or the idea. ... Whatever allows you to do that, whatever style, as long as it's authentic." In 2010 he also confirmed his first speaking date at the University of Central Florida.
Matisyahu has performed with Kenny Muhammad, a Muslim beatboxer. He also recorded the song "One Day" along with Akon.
Since his debut, Matisyahu has received positive reviews from both rock and reggae outlets. In 2006 he was named as Top Reggae Artist by Billboard as well as being named a spokesperson for Kenneth Cole. In 2006 Esquire's Esky Music Awards - Most Lovable Oddball in The magazine called him "the most intriguing reggae artist in the world."
Origin of his name
Matisyahu is a Ashkenazic Hebrew pronunciation of the Biblical name Matthew (מתתיהו). The same Hebrew name corresponds to the name Mattathias -- which is sometimes used as a translation of the name of the 2nd century BCE Jewish leader of the Maccabees' revolution.
Matisyahu Miller explained the origin of his personal use of the name in an interview in Kosher Spirit Magazine (a publication by OK Kosher Certification) as follows: His full secular name is Matthew Paul Miller, and the legal Hebrew name he received at his brit milah (circumcision ceremony) at eight days of age was forgotten. In Hebrew school it was assumed to be Matisyahu because of the connection between Matthew and Matisyahu. The original certificate from the brit was later located and he discovered that the actual name given at the brit was the Yiddish name "Feivish Hershel". He was advised by his rabbis to continue using the Hebrew name that he had grown up with.
- Matisyahu - vocals (2000— )
- Rob Marscher - keyboards (2008— )
- Stu "Bassie" Brooks - bass guitar (2009— )
- Joe Tomino - drums (2009— )
- D.P. Holmes - guitar (2009— )
- Aaron Dugan − guitar, ex-Roots Tonic (2004—2010)
- Jonah David − drums, ex-Roots Tonic (2004–2007)
- Josh Werner - bass, ex-Roots Tonic (2004–2007)
- Borahm Lee - keyboards (2006–2007)
- Skoota Warner - drums (2007–2008)
- Jason Fraticelli - bass (2007–2009)