Sunday, August 5, 2012

Spark Seeker

I remember the first time I heard Matisyahu; it was the HASC 18 album, after the Rabbi's Sons and Shlomo Simcha. He came on with "Chop 'Em Down," and I stared in horror at the speakers. What the heck is this stuff? 

But the more I listened, the more my ear shifted, and I came to love his sound. I would eagerly pop the CD in when kinfauna were in the car, and while they would initially freak, they would hop out at the end of the trip humming and chirping his lyrics. 

My favorite album of his thus far was Light, and I rarely like any album in its entirety. 

So I eagerly waited for Spark Seeker, and I will admit I was more than a little surprised. In true expression of his desire to evolve, Matt has definitely infused newness in his work. He threw in Middle-Eastern influences, which I happen to love in general (I've got songs in Turkish on my iPod) and the techno/electronica effects are certainly not standard reggae. 

While I first stared at the speakers in horror, I allowed myself to remain open to the musician who has yet to let me down. And in no time I was singing along to his reinvention, playing his tunes on a loop.


FrumGeek said...

Eh, I lost all my respect for te man when he cut off his peyos (completely! There's no halachic excuse!) dyed his hair blond, stopped wearing a yamuka, started smoking pot, and played a concert on tisha b'av. I'm through making up excuses for him. He's let me down.

Princess Lea said...

I wonder if it's us who have let him down. He is still finding himself, and he has to do it in a more public sphere than the rest of us do. But that doesn't mean we know him or his thoughts or his beliefs.

My interest in someone's music has little to do with their private lives. After all, plenty of rock stars that I listen to lead rather disgusting existences; Matisyahu gets a shave so I should ban him? He, as someone who publicly identifies as a Jew, should get our support, not our scorn. He has yet to do anything truly horrific.

A clarification: I believe the pot smoking was done by someone else in the photo. And regarding his performance on Tisha B'Av: 1) His music is his livelihood, meaning he gets some leeway there and 2) the taanis was a nidche, meaning there are all sorts of loopholes there.

FrumGeek said...

I direct you to this:

Princess Lea said...

I think that post was heinous. He is recommending Matisyahu should stop being religious? Who the heck is he to say what how religious someone is? We all get annoyed when someone to "the right" of us implies we don't know what it means to be frum, but we can write off whoever we like.

Again: It is not our place to judge. Matt's relationship with God has nothing to do with you and me. As for him being a symbol, he produces music. Yes, he is a celebrity, but he's not responsible for the world, anymore than any other celebrity is responsible for the entire Jewish people. You but a $10 album so you own him?

By wagging our wagging our global finger at him, claiming we know him when we don't, we have spectacularly proved to him that frumkeit is a fraud. We say dan l'kaf zechus, but apparently we don't mean it.

FrumGeek said...

No, it isn't our place to judge, but people will judge anyway. That's why we have the halacha of maaras ayin. Be careful when poeple are watching you. Especially when you're in a position to influence people, you must be extra careful in how you act. For all you know, someone could've gone off the derech b/c of him. I'm not saying we have a right to point our finger at him, but as someone in the public eye, he has a responsibility. Just as he'll be rewarded for causing someone to become frum, he'll be held just as responsible if he has the opposite effect on someone.

Princess Lea said...

You are automatically assuming the worst - he gets a haircut, ergo people become irreligious? I had heard that he believed the beard was preventing him from reaching out to as many unaffiliated as possible; he wants to make himself look more approachable. For someone who isn't religious, some dude in a black hat and major furry face doesn't seem relatable.

You can judge someone on something they MIGHT have done? You have proof, cited examples of kids who became irreligious because of him? Firstly, if someone makes major life changes based on a complete stranger, then they need a serious wake up call.

For kids out there who know nothing about the intricacies of halachos of men's facial hair, I fail to see how Matisyahu suddenly not inspire them. If someone actually made a point to listen to his lyrics, they would find lovely inspiration and mussar.

You want to change the world? Change yourself. Everyone else isn't your problem. If you are religious, that is for you. Not for anyone else. And religion means putting that pointing finger DOWN.

FrumGeek said...

He's viewed as a role model weather he wants it or not. (and the 'more approachable' excuse doesn't excuse his shaving off his peyos completely.) I am not saying he can't do what he likes, but he is a role model to a lot of people, be they stupid or not, and what he does or doesn't do will have far reaching consiquences. What he does may not effect you or me, but it will effect others, whether Matis wants it or not.

FrumGeek said...

And btw, people make life decisions bc of complete strangers all the time. You really think no one became not religious after Acher went otd?

Princess Lea said...

You are confusing Matisyahu with a spiritual leader, i.e. a rabbi. He is not. He is an entertainer, who sings of inspiration.

Shlomo Carlebach was a rabbinical student who went AWOL. He did drugs. He fooled around with women. But few talk about that nowadays. They talk about the people he brought back, the ones he inspired. Because in the grand scheme of things, the good he did outweighs that.

Matisyahu still has a squeaky-clean image, and he's getting crap. It's an injustice.

Again, you cannot go backward and make up stories. We only know about Acher. We weren't filled in about "others." And Matisyahu is certainly not Acher! He has never renounced God or Judaism! If anything, the opposite! How can you make comparisons?

And in the end, a Jew is a Jew, and we don't know what the end will be. And one has to have a pretty narrow view of history to claim otherwise.

If you aren't affected, then what do you care? It hasn't affected your religion. To say it may affect someone else is premature. And if it does affect someone else, he better get a more realistic basis for his faith then beat box. If it wasn't Matisyahu, it would have been something else.

All that matters in our life is how we treat others (Rav Hillel). If you treat everyone with kindness and acceptance, facial hair doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things.

FrumGeek said...

The facial hair isn't what bothers me. It's his whole new attitude. Honestly, I was never a fan of his music, and normally, I wouldn't care about what he does (any more so than it bothers me to see someone pull away from Judaism (and don't try to tell me that its ok for him to shave his peyos. There is no heter for that.)) what really bothers me is that I had friends that really looked up to him, he was a hero to them, and now they feel crushed and betrayed, and it bothers me to see them like this. His actions have far reaching consequences.

Princess Lea said...

I am not saying that it is ok. I am saying that it is not our place to completely cast away a fellow Jew because of it. Especially one who, I think, feels betrayed himself by the Jewish community, even before he decided to "reinvent" himself.

Why did your friends look to him as a hero? He never claimed he was, never marketed himself as one, never saved children from a burning building. If your friends viewed him as a hero it was because he was an observant Jew who made it big while identifying as an observant Jew. Which he still does. Until all this judgmental chatter makes him head for the hills.

Your buddies should save "crushing betrayal" for their nearest and dearest, not for a dude they don't know personally. What does he have to do with the daily lives of you and me?