Saturday, November 18, 2017
Tampa Bay Music & Shows

Matisyahu talks about Purim party at Tampa Theatre

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For most rock stars, an after-party involves guzzling bottles of Hennessy behind a well-guarded velvet rope.

For reggae singer and rapper Matisyahu, it's a Purim spread.

The soulful artist born Matthew Miller will bring his acoustic tour to the Tampa Theatre on Saturday, the same night the Jewish holiday begins at sundown. Though Matisyahu shocked fans in 2011 by shaving his iconic beard and saying he was no longer Hasidic, he still identifies as Jewish and explores spiritual themes in his music.

Purim is a celebratory holiday — it commemorates the bravery of Esther, Queen of Persia, who prevented the genocide of thousands of Jews — so his Jewish fans, at least, should be in a partying mood.

"I don't know how crazy it'll get, and how much I'll be able to be there and enjoy myself without feeling too picked-apart," Matisyahu said by phone from Annapolis, Md. "Hopefully everyone will just be having a good time and I'll be able to relax and enjoy myself also."

In our conversation, Matisyahu discussed his Purim plans, his beard and more. Here are excerpts.

I'm not Jewish, and I've never celebrated Purim, but it's a pretty good-natured and celebratory occasion, right? Is this the first time you've held an after-party like this?

Yeah, I guess it's one of the first official after-parties I've done. We knew we wanted to do something for Purim, so it just seemed like a good idea.

Is it open to non-Jewish fans as well?

Oh, of course. Yeah. For everybody.

So what should I know if I go?

Well, a lot of times people dress up in costumes. That's part of the idea of Purim. And they might read from the Megillah, which is the scroll, the story of Purim. And when they do that, whenever they mention Haman's name — the evil guy — everybody screams and they make a lot of noise. So if you hear people doing that, don't get self-conscious. It's not you.

Will you wear a costume?

I'm not sure yet. I haven't decided.

Do you typically wear one?

I don't usually wear a costume. Sometimes if I'm going out with my kids or something, I will.

Is it the sort of thing where people might show up dressed as, say, you?

Oh, yeah. I have that happen a lot. It's really something that I'll just see from the stage. I'll see some people dressed up like me. Although now it'll be harder to make themselves look like me. It's not so obvious who I look like, I guess.

Has shaving changed how your Jewish fans see or treat you?

I don't think all the fans, but some of them. I would say the majority of the Jewish fans that I have are not necessarily religious; they connect with my music, and one of the elements they might connect with is the Jewish element. But there were some fans that I had which were based primarily on the fact that I was representative for the population, and once I shaved, I guess some of those fans might have felt betrayed a little bit.

What about non-Jews? Has that changed the way that they've interacted with you?

Yeah, they're more relaxed and understanding about that element. A lot of times, it also depends not as much whether they're Jewish or not, but their history with religion. Some fans have grown up in religious houses and moved away from it, to have somewhat of an understanding of what that's about.

If you put aside matters of spirituality for a second, what was it like to be clean-shaven for the first time?

It felt fine. There's no real way to describe it. I felt naked, to some degree.

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