Musical Artist and Speaker
Matisyahu has come a long way since 2005 when he released his breakout album, Live at Stubb’s (which reached #1 on the Reggae Albums Chart and #30 on the Billboard 200). Since then he has pushed himself dynamically and creatively, breaking with expectation at every turn and remaking his musical image with nearly every album.…
Matisyahu has come a long way since 2005 when he released his breakout album, Live at Stubb’s (which reached #1 on the Reggae Albums Chart and #30 on the Billboard 200). Since then he has pushed himself dynamically and creatively, breaking with expectation at every turn and remaking his musical image with nearly every album. And his latest—Akeda (Uh--kay--duh)—is no different in this regard.
Akeda is depth and naturalness; it is by far Matisyahu’s most personal album, and the one over which he has had the most creative control. Quoting Matisyahu, “Akeda is the kind of album an artist makes when there is no other creative choice but to turn oneself inside--out, to scrape the insides and reveal everything raw”
Though he achieved early success as “The hasidic reggae superstar,” Matisyahu—the man and the musician—soon began to chafe under the constraints of that label and the projections that went with it. The music was continuing to evolve, and so was his spiritual identity. Reggae was just one strong influence in the sound he was seeking; and the mystical teachings of Hasidism had soaked--in to a degree that he felt
the external trappings were no longer necessary. As he says on
the new album, “Got it on the inside, don’t need to wear it out.”
By the release of Spark Seeker in 2012, Matisyahu’s appearance and sound had changed drastically from the days of his first success. And though his music was more successful than ever, having an even broader, multi--influence, cross--genre appeal, the backlash from his early reggae-- oriented fans, and those who saw him as a “bearded Jewish icon” was overwhelming and deeply painful to him. The pressures of success and constant touring, coupled with this onslaught of superficial criticism, drove the singer into intense feelings of isolation and introspection that eventually resulted in Akeda, his most “self-- reflective and purely conceived album” to date.
Written on tour, and in his Los Angeles home, Akeda was recorded in Brooklyn’s Studio G with his touring band, Dub Trio (Dave Holmes, Stu Brooks, and Joe Tomino), and was produced by bassist Stu Brooks (with assists from Studio G owner, Joel Hamilton, and Dave Holmes). Matisyahu also worked on a number of tracks with long time friends and collaborators Aaron Dugan, Rob Marcher and Mark Guiliana.
When asked about the writing and recording process for Akeda, Matisyahu says: “On this record, I really just wrote from my guts. I wanted everything to come from the inside . . . I didn’t want to make any compromises with the music or the recording process. It was all done at my place, or at Studio G with my bass player, Stu Brooks, who produced the record. Our musical tastes are so similar, and we’ve been working together so long, there was no need to go out looking for the ‘right producer’ or the ‘right beat’ . . . Everything just came to us, and it was always right on the money.”
The result of this collaboration is a wide--ranging, radically experimental album that adds a new layer of sophistication to Matisyahu’s body of work. On past albums, Matisyahu’s songs and lyrics were often drawn from inspiring themes and teachings in Hasidic Judaism; in Akeda, the lyrics are far more personal and Hasidic ideas play a smaller, supporting role. “They’re definitely in there,” says Matisyahu, “but they’re a lot more integrated than before. In some ways, I think I used to disguise myself behind them. But on this album, I was able to step into the world more, to come out from behind the glass and write more emotional songs, dealing with the real events and people in my life. And when I did this, I found that all the Hasidic and kabalistic ideas I’ve studied for years came up naturally and were able to enter into my real life.”
This is clear throughout the album, especially in intensely personal songs like “Reservoir.” In talking about this song, Matisyahu says: “In that song, I’m really dealing with the pain I felt—and continue to feel—from my ‘brothers’ who were so quick to throw me under the bus because of my changes. As usual, I make a lot of references to stories and motifs from Torah; only now, they are more internalized and deeply personal. The title,
‘Reservoir,’ refers to the reservoir in Central Park that I’ve found myself walking around at different times in my life. One day, it occurred to me that I’d never gone all the way around it, never completed the circle. It made me realize how much I wanted closure and a sense of completeness in my life.”
Another important song for Matisyahu is “Broken Car,” which sets up a theme found throughout the album. “This is really a song about refuge,” says Matisyahu, “about finding a home in the world; it’s about acceptance of oneself and others—with all the problems and flaws. It comes from the sense of profound ‘brokenness’ I’ve experienced in my own life over the past few years, which I’ve come to look at without judgment, with a kind of acceptance, patience and love. At this point, I just want to be grateful to God for the blessing of being able to continue growing and doing what I can to create a place of healing in this broken world.”
This, of course, brings us to Akeda, the album’s title. Akeda (‘binding’) is a Hebrew word that refers to sacrifice, or rather the near--sacrifice of Isaac by his father Abraham in the Bible at God’s command. But for Matisyahu, it is also a powerful symbol for the “toll” such acts of faith take on one’s life—even for a musician following his own heart and musical instincts. The success of “following the muse” brings its own problems, forcing an artist to look deep inside for the original purity that gave life to the music in the first place. This is the theme that shapes Akeda; for the songs on this new album deal with the intense loneliness and isolation of life on the road, processing complex feelings of betrayal from former friends and fans, as well the breakdown of longstanding relationships. But far from wallowing in these feelings and trials, the songs on Akeda deal with them, exploring them in the depths, and finally find their way back to the surface, where they achieving a kind of wholeness amid the brokenness of the sacrifice. In the end, “It is music that comes from the inside--out, and that somehow makes you feel cleansed in the listening.”
Ernie was perfect for our Elders Conference at Little River Casino Resort in Manistee, Michigan. We will definitely be using PDA again!
LITTLE RIVER BAND OF OTTAWA INDIANS
Our speaker was great and the crowd enjoyed her! She was very engaging. Thank you again PDA for the great list of suggestions!
Everything went great! and our speaker was wonderful! Thank you so much for all your help PDA! Looking forward to the next one.
UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI – KANSAS CITY
I hope that this message finds you well. We had a phenomenal time with Atsuko this past Thursday. We wanted to just let you know how amazing she was. All those that were in attendance thoroughly enjoyed her and had nothing but amazing things to say about her. Thank you for working with us to make sure this happened!
BAYLOR UNIVERSITY CAMPUS
We had a fantastic day with Inge! She was very engaging with all those that attended. Her personal stories about the holocaust were very special and we were moved that she was willing to share them with everyone. Thank you again, PDA for all your hard work and dedication to make this program such a success!
SALT LAKE COMMUNITY COLLEGE
Dear PDA Group, Thank you so much for your hard work in scheduling our speaker! From the moment we reached out to you the first time, you worked with us on all details and logistics and kept us up-to-date on the progress. Thank you for all your hard work on making our event such a success! We couldn't have done it without you and your team!
Thank you again, Dr. Kimbrough, for a great presentation, our attendees are still talking about it!
Dr. Henry Lee's presentation was entertaining, insightful and wise. I, and everyone at Pfizer, especially appreciate the remarks you directed about following your passion and preparing yourself to excel. Thank you, everyone, at PDA for helping to make this happen!
The event was successful! I received many messages expressing how awesome, outstanding and inspiring Ms. Webb-Christburg's speech was."
DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. MEMORIAL BREAKFAST, BOSTON, MLK SPEAKER
Everything went well. Atsuko was very easy to work with and the students enjoyed her performance! Thank you again for your recommendation and I hope to work with you again in the future!
CENTRAL MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY
Dr. Novello left this morning after a very successful event on our campus! Thank you PDA Group for your help from the first phone to the last you were with us every step of the way.
GRAND VALLEY STATE UNIVERSITY
Jordan Carlos was very very entertaining! A majority of students who answered the event survey indicated they really enjoyed Jordan and definitely will bring him back!
WESTERN CAROLINA UNIVERSITY
On behalf of myself and my organization Entertainment Unlimited the Campus Programming Board of Ferris State University, we thank you PDA and Dan for a successful event!! Dan was magnificent! Students really enjoyed the presentation. I know I did. Can't wait to bring in more programs with PDA Group.
FERRIS STATE UNIVERSITY
It was a great pleasure to work with PDA Group! The communication was always prompt, friendly and helpful. We loved the speakers and events we booked through Mr. Peter Walker (PDA Group).
WESTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY
Thank you, Peter, for all your help, you'll be happy to know that the event went incredibly well! Aneesa Ferreira was by far one of the best speakers we've ever had!
An Evening With Matisyahu
Matisyahu will host a concert, followed by a question-and-answer session
1 HOUR OR LESS