A Musician for All Music-Lovers

Written by: Justin Freeman, Staff Writer Sonoma State STAR
Photo by: Matisyahu

On Nov. 11, people of all ages and demographics flocked to Sonoma State’s Weill Hall for one reason: Matisyahu. For those who don’t know, Matisyahu is the performing name of Matthew Paul Miller, who blends multiple styles of music together to create a distinct, unique sound.

Having risen to international fame in the past decade, Matisyahu’s music doesn’t fit into one genre, but if someone had to put a label on it, then psychedelic Rasta jazz rap might be the best description. This blurring of cultural lines reflects itself in Matisyahu’s fan base, which, judging by the crowd at Weill Hall last Wednesday, is just as diverse as the man’s musical influences.

At the onset of the show, Matisyahu and his band mates wasted no time getting straight to the music. Completely skipping any type of introduction or how-do-you-do, the group simply made their way onto the stage, settled in their positions, and started playing. Perhaps the most adorable moments of the show were during the beginning, when Matisyahu’s young son was hanging out on stage doing exactly what one might expect a kid to do: Explore the stage, squirm in his chair, and make faces. The loving connection between father and son could be seen through their interactions, which happened as Matisyahu masterfully sang and parented simultaneously.

On one particular instance, his son wanted to sit on top of a high wooden stool, which Matisyahu stabilized with his free hand while his other one gripped the microphone he was rapping into. His son struggled to clamber up at first, but with his dad’s help, the little guy overcame the challenge and reached the top, bringing aww’s and applause out of the adoring crowd. The kid even beatboxed into microphone for half a second, but half a second was all he needed to further win the crowd over.

The music itself was comprised of Matisyahu’s rapping, beatboxing, and vocals alongside a grand piano, contemporary keyboard, electric guitar, bass and drum set. The band grooved together very well and gracefully brought their songs in and out of several climaxes, the effect of which was enhanced by the interplay of the stage lights and smoke.

At these zeniths of musical fusion, the group seemed to be in some kind of soulful trance, as if they were playing as one interconnected force that was one with the music it was creating.

These moments brought much fervor out of the audience. Gradually, the event was transformed from one of etiquette and proper seating to one of dancing and general rocking out. It started when one older gentleman became the only standing person in the crowd, waving his arms about in a hypnotic fashion and seemingly reliving his possible past at Woodstock. By the end of the performance, de facto dance floors had begun to form in the aisles between seating sections, full of people who proceeded to cry for an encore once the group left the stage. The band heard the message loud and clear and came back on to play one of Matisyahu’s biggest hits, “One Day,” as well as a cover of Bob Marley’s song “No Woman No Cry.”

When asked about she liked the show, Sonoma State sophomore Natalie Mandeville simply stated “It was incredible,” and that Matisyahu is an “intelligent, insightful, and very respectable man.” While there were a lot of fans of the music in the crowd, many attendees expressed a fascination with Matisyahu himself.

“He’s honest to who he is, a true artist,” said audience member Joy Zanders. “He is one with the music. He is the music.” Aaron Gordon, a Sonoma State senior, agreed with Zander. “He’s mainstream,” said Gordon, “But he’s pretty genuine and sticks to his values. Doesn’t stray.”

Matisyahu is known to infuse his work with his Jewish faith, which can be seen through such lyrics as “Give glory to the kingdom of creation,” or interestingly enough, “I’m not religious, I just let go of my doubt.” But one doesn’t need to consider themselves spiritual or religious to be entertained by Matisyahu. He has a way of bringing different ingredients together to create his music, which can appeal to many different backgrounds of people. Anybody who likes reggae, rap, jazz, or even classic rock may want to give him a listen if they haven’t before.