Listening to the music of the Bukharian Jews and the ceremonial and pop music of the Moroccan Jews made me think about the music our society listen to nowadays. With so many genres of music, it seems that everyone fits into a certain criterion.
If you’re from the south, you are considered a country singer and the need to mention a pick-up truck and/or a shotgun in your lyrics seems like a must. If you’re a pop singer you are either singing about falling in love or falling out of it. Although the melody and the lyrics are different, most of the time the underlying message is quite similar. Being a hip-hop singer, a rapper or an R and B singer, it is likely that one discusses the struggles one faced growing up or their love for women. Most of our society fits the criteria of one of these genres. But what if someone you would least expect is breaking into a genre that they do not “belong” in?
Jewish people have found their way into the industry one way or another. Whether they are the record label owners or the music writers/producers, they are all over the industry. Adam Levine from Maroon 5, PINK, and even Drake have risen to stardom and they all have one thing in common. They can trace their lineage to Judaism.
The list goes on but the most interesting to me are the Orthodox Jews that broke into the most unexpected genres. In the early 2000’s rapper Matisyahu entered the scene with his reggaeton feel of music. He swept the nation with his verses and appeared on every talk show and late night show nationwide. He was even nominated for a Grammy. His lyrics reflect Hashem (G-d), Mashiac (Messiah) and he has songs that talk about the holidays such as Chanukah(Jewish holiday). His childhood was secular and he went to a public school and it wasn’t until he visited Israel did he find G-d and began his journey into his religious life.
More recently, another religious Jew became popular in the media. Damian Black was born in the roughest area in Seattle where his parents were both drug addicts. Damian was selling weed and had his first weapon from the age of 16. Music became is outlet in which he rapped about drugs, violence and despair and he became in the rap circles as D.Black.
D.Black felt a change in himself and had a lot of questions he wanted answered. He found those answers in the synagogue of a neighboring Jewish community. With his new found enlightenment, he changed his name to Nissim, meaning miracles, and went back into the studio.
Nissim wrote “Chronicles” as a self reflection in which he states that D.Black was dead and that he is now Nissim. Not only is he a solo artist, but he is also featured in the song titled Hashem Melech (G-d is king) with a very popular Israeli singer Gad Elbaz. He now raps not about drugs and violence, but about growth, hope, and inspiration.
Nissim went even further then just changing his name and religion, he recently changed countries, moving to Israel with his wife.
Jews who have been Jews since birth do not always see eye to eye, so how does the Jewish community view these artists? Matisyahu and Nissim were accepted and praised by the Jewish community for not only being members of the Jewish community, but being a voice of inspiration to the rest of the world as well as their own people. To have religious Jews so involved in the music industry, who are unwavering in their faith is remarkable. It is very motivating to know that as improbable as something may seem, anything and everything is possible.