These issues were perhaps best, and most troublingly, brought to the foreground last week in a review of Matisyahu’s Manhattan concert written by The New York Times’ pop music critic, Kelefa Sanneh. The review, published on the front page of the paper’s Arts section, had little to say about Matisyahu’s music but plenty to discuss about his race.Does anyone remember "Mother and Child Reunion," a Reggae song by a Jewish boy named Paul Simon? And what about "Ob-la-di Ob-la-da"?--Reggae by white boys from Liverpool. And speaking of fake Jamaican accents, what about "Louie Louie"?
“Matisyahu’s black hat,” Sanneh wrote, “also helps obscure something that might otherwise be more obvious: his race. He is a student of the Chabad-Lubavitch philosophy, but he is also a white reggae singer with an all-white band, playing (on Monday night, anyway) to an almost all-white crowd. Yet he has mainly avoided thorny questions about cultural appropriation.”
Almost instantly, the Jewish blogosphere lit up. Why, most commentators asked, was Matisyahu singled out for a cultural act — call it appropriation — that many white artists have happily, and seamlessly, committed?
Writing in his blog, “Canonist,” religion writer Steven I. Weiss labeled Sanneh’s review as a “hackneyed, disingenuous, and self-contradicting series of assessments about religion, race, and culture.”
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
An excerpt featuring a J-blogger: