Matisyahu performs with special guest, Nadim Azzam, on March 24 at the University of Pennsylvania. Photo by Brandon Jones.
Grammy-nominated reggae artist and singer/songwriter Matisyahu concluded a spring tour of 12 university campuses on April 14 with a final concert at the University of California San Diego. Local Hillels along with additional campus organizations sponsored the tour promoting unity, dialogue and empathy through music.
Matisyahu was inspired for the campus tour in a recent performance in Jerusalem alongside popular Palestinian artists as well as secular and religiously observant Israeli musicians. “There’s a lot of history [between peoples] and if we dwell in that, to continually say who is right and who is wrong, it goes in circles,” said Matisyahu. “But to come together to make music, to interact as human beings… it supersedes that. And that’s what we’re trying to show.”
Joining Matisyahu as a special guest was acoustic hip-hop artist and singer/songwriter Nadim Azzam, an Arab-American born to an Egyptian-Palestinian father and an American Jewish mother. Matisyahu’s full band accompanied him at each venue, featuring original Stubbs guitarist Aaron Dugan, Dub Trio bassist Stu Brooks, percussionist Tim Keiper and keyboardist BigYuki. Prior to each concert, Matisyahu and Nadim Azzam sat down with student leaders from across the campus community for an intimate discussion and informal meet and greet.
Hillels used these concerts as an opportunity to bring in students, both Jewish and non-Jewish, who may not have otherwise engaged with Hillel. “Music has the capacity to bridge boundaries to transcend the barriers that usually divide folks,” Penn Hillel Senior Jewish Educator Rabbi Josh Bolton told the Jewish Exponent. “[Matisyahu] is the embodiment of such an interesting and authentic journey of self — religious, spiritual, identity — and that’s what Hillel is all about: enabling students and supporting students as they go through Jewish journeys of all sorts.”
At Penn State University, Matisyahu’s concert served as the kick off for Penn State Hillel’s Purim celebrations on March 23 at Indigo night club. Matisyahu’s visit to the University of Maryland coincided with the sixth annual National Hillel Basketball Tournament, hosted yearly by Maryland Hillel. In addition to his concert, Matisyahu surprised hundreds of student athletes March 27 by walking onto the basketball court and joining a pick up game.
Additional tour stops included Boston University, University of Virginia, Ohio State University, University of Wisconsin, University of Michigan, University of Illinois, University of California Berkeley and University of California Los Angeles.
For full details about the tour, visit www.matisyahutour.com.
Matisyahu meets with student leaders March 20 at Boston University Hillel.
Matisyahu high fives students after a pick up game at the National Hillel Basketball Tournament.