Rena Koenig didn’t know what to expect when she emailed Matisyahu to ask if he would visit her 8-year-old daughter who’s battling cancer.
“She loves his songs, she listens to them when she is in pain,” Koenig said in a phone interview. “I thought, ‘What do I have to lose?’”
The leap of faith paid off. Laila, who is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment for a rare bone cancer called Ewing Sarcoma, got a very special visit from the singer-songwriter last month.
“I know you. You’re the one who sings my favorite songs,’” Laila told the star, when he arrived at the Koenig’s New York City apartment.
The two sang Matisyahu’s song “Sunshine”(Laila’s favorite) and the artist discussed his own daughter’s battle with two heart surgeries.
“She was like, ‘I just can’t believe he came to see me,’” Koenig recalled.
It was a bright spot for the family, who are fundraising to help cover the financial burdens of Laila’s treatment.
“He said whenever he has a concert in New York she’s invited for sure,” Koenig said. “And they’ll sing on the stage together.”
The tale of the Hawaiian busker who got to perform with Matisyahu in an impromptu street duet, captured in a viral video, isn’t over yet. After some legal arrangements, the unlikely pair are scheduled to perform together on Friday in Los Angeles.
Last Friday Matisyahu posted a live video on Facebook in which he invited Kekoa Alama to perform with him at the Hollywood Palladium, but Alama said he was not sure he could travel due to having violated his parole.
After speaking to Alama’s parole officer and the judge on the case, the Jewish reggae star announced Monday that the “Maui coffee shop brudda” would be allowed to travel to the performance.
In the original video Matisyahu discovered Alama playing the ukulele and singing his hit “One Day” in a Maui coffee shop. The Jewish reggae star joined in, although Alama did not realize who he really was.
“Oh Jesus. What’s up, man?” the street performer told the formerly Orthodox singer, who used to sport a beard, when he revealed his true identity. “You look different.”
Watch the viral video here:
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A street performer in Paia, Hawaii shared an impromptu duet with Matisyahu last week—and he didn’t even realize it.
Clint Alama, a local musician, was performing the Jewish singer’s smash hit “One Day,” when an inconspicuous looking man in a backwards baseball cap and swim trunks joined in. The man,unbeknownst to Alama, was Matisyahu himself.
The artist stood to the side during Alama’s performance, sipping coffee, swaying along and belting in every few verses.
Once the song finished, Alama immediately went over to shake the star’s hand. “You have a beautiful voice, man.”
Introductions were quickly made, and the performer was clearly shocked.
“Oh Jesus. What’s up, man?” he said, reaching out to bump fists. “You look different.” (Fair enough.)
Alama was later given guest passes to the MayJah RayJah Music Festival, where the singer would be headlining.
Free concert tickets and a a surprise duet with Matisyahu? Not a bad day in the life of a busker.
Matisyahu has launched a U.S. college tour co-sponsored by Hillel chapters with a musician born to an Egyptian-Palestinian father and American-Jewish mother.
The formerly Hasidic reggae artist, who kicked off the tour with special guest Nadim Azzam on Sunday at Boston University’s Metcalf Ballroom, has said the decision to play with an Arabic musician is a response to being disinvited from a festival in Spain last summer.
“The purpose is to replace boycott and finger pointing with music as a reminder to find the compassion and humanity we share,” Matisyahu wrote on his website last week.
Last August, activists from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement pushed the organizers of the Rototom Sunsplash Festival to bar Matisyahu from performing. He was eventually reinvited after an apology from the event’s organizers.
After the festival controversy, Matisyahu played concerts in Jerusalem’s Old City and at the last remaining synagogue near the gates of Auschwitz. He was honored by the Anti-Defamation League for standing up to “forces of ignorance and intolerance.”
“There’s so much misinformation and divisiveness. Everyone boycotts each other and no one is listening. So I thought it would be good to do a series of concerts if I bring in a Palestinian artist and we try to bring these two groups together,” he told the Wisconsin Badger-Herald earlier this month about his current tour.
The shows with Azzam are sponsored by the Hillel chapters at the schools and other campus organizations.
(JTA) — With his clean-shaven face and hip clothing, it’s easy to forget that Matisyahu was a Hasidic icon before he was just a Jewish one.
But on a segment of HuffPost Live on Tuesday, the Jewish reggae singer called leaving the Hasidic community “one of the hardest things [he] had to go through.”
From 2001 to 2007, Matisyahu (born Matthew Miller) was associated with the Chabad-Lubavitch movement based in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. In 2011, he shaved the bushy beard that had become a signature part of his image.
“I’m aware of who I am and what I represent to different people and that I came out as a Hasidic Orthodox Jewish artist … and when you have such a strong identity, you know, most people are not able to break from that type of thing,” Matisyahu said. “I didn’t really think about what the reaction would be, honestly, how it would affect people.”
Matisyahu for years performed wearing a yarmulke or black hat and other traditional Hasidic garb. After shedding that image and becoming less religious, he told the Huffington Post that he got “hit with a wave of very upset or confused people.”
“A lot of people made the automatic assumption that it was sort of the rock and roll lifestyle playing its due course and it was just a matter of time before that lifestyle would take its toll and sort of take me into the dark side,” he said. “In fact, the decision for me to let go of the board and to make those changes was an incredibly spiritual and honest experience.”
When he shaved his beard, he issued a statement that said: “And for those concerned with my naked face, don’t worry … you haven’t seen the last of my facial hair.” However, he has not been seen with a significant beard since.
Matisyahu’s latest album was released in June 2014, but he has been back in the media spotlight in recent months after being disinvited and then invited back to a Spanish festival.
Since the August festival, he has played in Jerusalem multiple times.
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