In 2005, Matisyahu found himself on a Bonnaroo stage with Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio. While Matisyahu had been known for his spiritualized take on the roots-reggae genre, the vocalist impressed with a barrage of beatboxing and lyrical gymnastics to accompany Anastasio’s improvisational style. Though mainstream success saw Matisyahu emphasize lyrical spirituality over musical exploration, the singer’s new approach is sure to please fans of the jam style.
Matisyahu’s current touring band is comprised of some of the best musicians in the business. The band features guitarist and longtime staple of the downtown New York improv scene Aaron Dugan, Dub Trio bassist and long-time Matisyahu collaborator Stu Brooks, percussionist and Cyro Baptista, go-to-drummer Tim Keiper, and virtuoso keyboardist BigYuki. As a musical unit, what they produce is greater than the sum of its parts. Of course, it’s Matisyahu’s ability to improvise vocally that makes these performances so unique.
As Matisyahu explains, “When I started out I was relatively mixing two black and white things. I was a very specific brand of Chabad, Hasidic orthodox judaism, even though I came to it from a mixture of things, I became very defined as that: I decided to define myself that way. My very first record, a roots reggae record, was very black and white: a Hasidic man making roots reggae music, and over the course of the last 10-15 years, I became more interested in texture and the gray area.”
Last week, Matisyahu launched a college campus tour with Nadim Azzam, promoting a message of peace and unity throughout the country. Backed by this new group of musicians, Matisyahu has shared with us a montage capturing the infectious improvisation that his band is bringing to fans on a nightly basis. Enjoy the short film below:
Talking about his shows, Matisyahu says, “I don’t write a setlist, I write a list of songs. I take time between songs, sometimes up to 30 seconds or even a minute of silence to decide what the next song should be. I don’t prepare: I prepare my voice and body, but mentally the process is to let go of all preconceived notions of what the show is going to be for that night. If the show the night before went a certain way, the goal in preparation for tonight’s show is to try to not recreate that.” This is certainly a mentality that all jam fans can appreciate.
Matisyahu’s college tour continues tonight, Monday March 28th, at the Newport Theatre in Ohio State University. While tickets are limited to students, staff and families, you can stream the show by following this link! We’ll be sharing major updates from Matisyahu’s tour, so don’t miss out!
Matisyahu is also hitting the road with 311 this summer, with dates spanning July and August. You can catch all of Matisyahu’s tour dates on his website. Check out the campus tour schedule below:
MATISYAHU with Nadim Azzam Campus Tour
Monday, March 28 – Ohio State University – Newport Theatre
Wednesday, March 30 – University of Wisconsin – Capture Theatre
Monday, April 4 – University of Michigan – Hill Auditorium
Tuesday, April 5 – University of Illinois – Canopy Club
Sunday, April 10 – University of California Berkeley – Lower Sproul
Tuesday, April 12 – University of California Los Angeles – Schoenberg Hall
Thursday, April 14 – University of California San Diego – Sun God Lawn
Tickets are exclusive, limited to students, staff, and family.