I memorized Matisyahu’s album Light. I contemplated why someone would want to “Escape” the triumvirate of “the Bible, blood libels, and false idols.” I covered “I Will Be Light” at an open mic and at a church event. I had my students analyze the sounds in the introduction to “Motivate” and build their own sampled and synthesized elements in Reason for me to remix.
Light was not the first time I heard Matisyahu. I had encountered his vocal talent a couple of years earlier at a Shem’s Disciples concert at the South Huntington Public Library. At the time, I did not know it was he who rose from the audience to share some unaccompanied verse. After the concert, my friend gave him this compliment: “You’re better than Matisyahu.” “Oh, really?” he gently replied. A few months later, my friend and I realized our blunder and his kindness.
I did not buy Spark Seeker, but I raided online public radio archives to prepare for attending the recent concert at Terminal 5. Live, I learned that Matisyahu is very tall, loves to dance, and respects his collaborating songwriters. I also realized that he–like artists from Beethoven to The Beatles–is transitioning to a new style. He is singing more than he is rapping. He can savor the reggae tunes of his younger self, and he can wield his voice with the intimacy of “Silence.” I like both, and as long as Matisyahu sings of being “strong with compassion,” I will listen.