During the Q&A session with reggae artist Matisyahu, Weber State University student Mitch Tarbox stood in front of nearly 1,000 people and asked how he, an aspiring rapper, could be heard.
“Well, I’ll tell you the best way,” Matisyahu said. “I’m going to give you a beat right now. Ready?”
Singer and songwriter Matisyahu, who blends orthodox Jewish themes with reggae and hip hop beat-boxing, performed and spoke at WSU on Thursday to a large crowd of students and community members. Starting at 9 a.m., people were lining up, awaiting the artist who was not scheduled until noon. The line eventually pushed through the Shepherd Union Building’s doors, stretching all the way to WSU’s Stewart Library.
About 45 students had the opportunity to attend a meet-and-greet with the artist prior to the show. During the meet-and-greet, which resembled a round-table conversation, Matisyahu pointed to one WSU student at the opposite end of the table and said he remembered meeting him on his tour this past summer.
The student was guitarist Jordan Chad Tanner, who said he knows all of Matisyahu’s songs. During the concert, Matisyahu invited Tanner onto the stage to play guitar for Matisyahu’s song “Darkness into Light.”
“I’ve learned all his lyrics and I can play a lot of his songs,” Tanner said. “I’ve always been a big fan . . . I thought I’d be more nervous than I was. It was just fun. It was cool to be up there . . . Everyone wants to be a rock star, right?”
Upon performing several songs, Matisyahu spoke with the audience in a Q&A session, which increased the reverent, hushed tone of the room.
Several people in attendance observed the energy in the room.
“(It’s) just a great, energetic sound,” said Carlos Emjay, a drummer with the WSU African Drum Society. “It was a great opportunity to hear him live . . . Whatever he was saying was legit.”
Britta Stumpp, a dancer and an employee at WSU’s library, said she had not heard of Matisyahu until the show.
“I love his message of spirituality versus dogma,” she said.
While known for his spiritual lyrics, Matisyahu stated his belief that not all religious people are deep thinkers. His words on the matter generated a large amount of cheers.
“Trust me, I’m surrounded by a lot of religious people, and a lot of times they’re the most shallow thinkers, you know?” he said. “But I guess for me, again, I try not to think of things in terms of religion, or not religion . . . Everyone has their own trip that they’re on, basically.”
WSU Convocations, a committee of students who choose speakers and performers to come to WSU, brought Matisyahu to campus.
“We make sure they have a message,” said Tara Peris-Caputo, Convocations adviser and coordinator of Clubs and Organizations. “His was spirituality in music. It went really well.”
Nathan Chappell, a musician who attended with his daughter, said Matisyahu is an inspiration.
“He’s the best,” Chappell said. “He’s awesome. He embodies a lot of ideals I think we need to get closer to. Beyond the music, I think his approach to life is balanced and something I’d like to be more like.”
According to his MySpace page, Matisyahu is a “Hasidic Jewish musician from New York City singing reggae songs about his religious devotion.”