The problem I have with Matisyahu, the Lubavitch reggae superstar whose album recently went to number one on the reggae charts, is that his success means that Jewish kids everywhere are going to think that they themselves can reggae-rap their way to superstardom. It’s what, back in high school, I used to call the Beastie Boys Effect: as word spread that the three Boys had gone to yeshiva, the boys I went to high school with began to have delusions of rapping grandeur, if such a thing there be…and my concern is that the Effect will re-emerge, with a beat that’s distinctly reggae. And copycat yeshiva reggae artists? We’ll end up with rabbi/rap/reggae hybrids like RambEminem, Fat Joe-sephus and Jew-Z. The world does not need that.
That said, Matisyahu totally rocked the Chabad-sponsored Jewish Life Festival last Sunday afternoon in Washington Square Park. I was one of the few in attendance who had never heard any of his music; I had heard that he attracted a diverse group of people to his concerts. Half of the people I was there with weren’t even Jewish; they were just fans.
But the event had more than just Matisyahu. For $10 (for you, a bargain), you could make your own shofar. I didn’t, because the rumor was that ram’s horns actually are quite malodorous when you first remove them from the animal…who knew? But if shofar odors are your problem, then here’s the solution: a combination wash of baking soda and vinegar apparently obliterates that “fresh-from-the-dead-ram” smell. You see? You can learn something new every day…
Of course, this being a Jew event, I couldn’t help but run into various Jews of note. First of all, there was Tamara, in from California due to a cheap ticket and a few days to kill. And then, I got recognized by Mobius , a split second before I recognized him. (That’s what putting your picture all over the internet gets you…the loss of your anonymity.) He was there with Jake Marmer and Lillit Sofer, both of Jewschool and Mima’amakim, and we had to commemorate the meeting with a picture. Wanna see?
Expanding the circles of Jewish geography offline to the rhythms and words of a pro-Zionist, pro-Judaism Lubavitch reggae singer, under crystal blue skies in New York City…a priceless and promising way to begin a new year.
(Re-posted from My Urban Kvetch)