Musical serendipity

On a recent episode of Says You!, the host, Richard Sher asked the panel to explain the food “muesli”. He’d never heard the word before, and when he came across it, he figured it would be a stumper.

He was wrong.

Turns out everyone on the panel knew that muesli was a Swiss delicacy of rolled oats and fruit, leaving Richard slightly embarrassed at the gap in his knowledge.

MatisyahuI fear I’m about to make the same mistake by pointing you to an artist I’m sure everyone’s heard about but to whom I’ve just been introduced. He goes by Matisyahu, but you may know him better as “that Jewish Reggae guy”.

Even though I’d heard of this Orthodox Jew from Crown Heights, Brooklyn (my own stomping grounds in New York) about six months or a year ago, I’d never heard any of his stuff, and figured he was just a gimmick. That changed tonight thanks to a bit of musical serendipity.

I’d been wandering through CostCo a few weeks ago, and a reggae song was on one of the iPods in the store. It was something by Snow, a Reggae artist who was popular in the early-to-mid 90s. I liked the song well enough to write down the artist and album so I could look it up on iTunes.

I finally got around to doing that tonight, and realized I knew the artist by his most popular song, Informer. I would have purchased the album, but it was one of iTunes’ annoying partial albums (I did add it to my Amazon cart, though). While reading through the iTunes reviews, one mentioned

What are you guys thinking? This man was way ahead of his time! If this were to come out now you’d give him praise, just like were giving Matisyahu praise.

Well! Musical serendipity is often found following another person’s “also liked” list, so I looked up Matisyahu, and listened to a few of his tracks on iTunes. Then I Googled him and listened to a few songs from his website. Then I watched a few of his videos.

I was completely sold: I put his two released albums (Live at Stubbs and Youth) into my iTunes cart.

Listening to his stuff, I’m realizing he reminds me of Skadanks and their lead singer, Rocker-T. I saw them perform half-a-dozen times or so at Wetlands in New York back in the late 80s, early 90s. Unfortunately, they didn’t do more than a single album, and it didn’t capture the energy of their live shows.

Matisyahu is also supposed to be great in concert, and the Live at Stubbs album is supposed to reflect that, while the second, studio album supposedly feels more, well, studio-ish, I guess. I’d like to catch him in concert; unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to be playing outside the East Coast right now. I hope that changes soon.