The Schmooze

Reggae's Jewish Connection

In 1997, writer, producer and performer Michael Goldwasser founded reggae collective Easy Star All-Stars, and has since then released half a dozen albums with names like “Dub Side of the Moon,” “Radiodread,” and “Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band.” Their latest album, a reggae-homage to Michael Jackson, “Thrillah,” slows down singles like “Beat It” and “Billie Jean” to a dubby reverb. Goldwasser, whose father was a rabbi for a Reform congregation, talked to The Arty Semite about the affinity between Judaism and Rastafarian cultures and why Israel is the next big reggae scene.

Mordechai Shinefield: Your father was a rabbi; did that have an impact on the kind of music you grew up listening to?

Michael Goldwasser: My grandparents had a nice collection of Yiddish and cantorial music that I listened to, and from going to synagogue I knew a lot of the Jewish life-cycle and holiday songs. I still listen to vinyl so I’ll break out my grandfather’s old records and it brings back nice memories.

When did you get into reggae?

My first memory of listening to reggae was driving around with my Dad; I was eight. It wasn’t until my early teens though when someone turned me onto Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “Catch a Fire” that I really got into it. Even then I realized the connection between reggae and being Jewish.

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Reggae's Jewish Connection

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