Sunday, December 04, 2005
Iron, Lion, Zion: Black Hatted Rebbegae
Reggae is not the music of choice for the standard orthofunction, or, it wasn't...
In my father’s eyes it is not music at all. When he found a Bob Marley cassette in the music stash hidden in my sock drawer my old man, before throwing it out, asked me with tears in his eyes how his own son could listen to a shvartze making animal noises. A rhetorical question I had no inclination to explore at that time and he patently expected no answer to as he proceeded to dispose of my albums of grunt.
As I proceeded to replace them, I am sure I pondered, as I often do today, how comes I am indeed so comfortable in my own little place right on the edge of the gefilte-fish cradle. With the shimmering jellified comfort of soulless shtetility just within reach and the soothing, pounding reggae sound beating its own version of sanity in through the background. In an ironic twist, now it is my own daughter who wants me to order her a Reggae album from the Sonymusic website. To further the irony it is a religious young man’s sweet sound and cherubic good looks that have taken her. The rebberap sound we already have gotten used to from Lipa Shmelzer is now being surpassed in the adoration of a budding generation of orthofannettes by Matisyahu’s rebbegae.
This young man, religious enough to go onstage without his glasses because he does not want to see the girls, should pose no harm to my daughter, though pose he certainly does. Yet as I indulge her unconscious pheremonal desires I am aware, as he is probably not, that I am observing a very slippery slope. His being featured on MTV helps him to overcome the very real hurdle in these girl’s eyes, of being a Lubavitcher and provide a legitimate, fully kosher menu of gyrating, middle-clutching, shadow playing, finger pointing, hip hopping, back bopping, black sounding music. No wonder they love him and I am convinced the happily married young man who has just had a baby hopes they will all learn from him to love his religion and his God.
Alex Strom, with whom I do not always agree, rues in his column this week the lack of entertainment opportunities for the Haredi young male. He makes a valid point, if we overlook the fact that he seems consider the excruciatingly infantile entertainment, that The Aguda he used to lead produced, worthy of promotion. However unlike the weddingsinger stars and very amateur dramatics, the Cheapendale Chevres' overdubbed electronopop to illfitting lyrics and the soulless choirs of overproduced yingelech that we excused as Heimishe entertainment, finally God seems to have blessed us with a Matisyahu.
Matisyahu could be the answer to my dreams. A role model to the artists within the haredi community who have until now felt you have to either suppress it or chase it outside. He can, if he plays his hands right (pun intended), prove to us that it is indeed possible to serve God in many ways and that Lubavitch might in fact have gotten that right.
And wat could be more ironical den dat man?