Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Hanukkah Receives Kosher Pop Welcome

Rahav Segev for The New York Times -Matisyahu, the kosher-pop singer, welcomes Hanukkah with his Festival of Lights series, which continues this week and next at Webster Hall in the East Village and the Music Hall of Williamsburg, in Brooklyn.

Matisyahu has built a career on analogies between Rastafarian roots reggae and Hasidic songs. Both are concerned with faith and survival struggles and have lyrics phrased in Biblical allusions; both draw on modal scales and melismatic vocal lines that can sound Middle Eastern. Near the end of the concert Matisyahu sang long, cantorial phrases while rocking back and forth, as if davening, or praying. Yet if his lyrics weren’t so clear about their references to Jewish history and the majesty of God, most of the time Matisyahu would simply be one more reggae-loving rocker.

melisma: a group of notes sung to a single syllable, typically including both a primary note and ornamentation.

Rahav Segev for The New York Times

Matisyahu performing at Webster Hall on Sunday night.

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