Thursday, December 8, 2011

What kind of reggae singer?

Matisyahu is the Hebrew and stage name for a Hasidic Jewish Reggae singer. Seems like an odd mix, but in our world of mashups, Matisyahu is not such a surprise. It's hard to listen to Matisyahu without getting a smile on your face. Frankly, it's hard to listen to any reggae music without a smile, but the apparent contradiction between the joy in Matisyahu's voice and his somewhat stiff appearance takes the audience off guard.

If you want to learn a bit about his background, you can checkout this video

The point of this post, though, is not to educate you about Matisyahu, but to explain how his music became a part of an assessment in my World Religions class that engaged my students in modern day media and ancient beliefs.

Students picked a song from Matisyahu to analyze in terms of how the music and lyrics embodied Jewish faith. Students used a google doc to sign up for a song. By using google docs, I assured that no two students used the same song. Students were able to sign-up at home at their convenience and did not need to see a chart in my classroom. By using google docs this way, I also rewarded those who started early; they had a larger selection of songs.

I gave students a few links on Matisyahu, but mostly left them to their own devices. As juniors and seniors, they are quite familiar with this type of work, especially as they have done similar projects for me before. I gave them the rubric and off they went. I got some amazing work from my students. It turned into a sort of literary analysis of Matisyahu's work in terms of Judaic beliefs. Students demonstrated familiarity with stories, practices and beliefs of Judaism. They also interpreted the music in terms of its mood and related that mood back to ideas found in Judaism.

This is definitely a project I will tweak and use again next semester when I teach World Religion again.

Why don't you enjoy a little Matisyahu "King without  a Crown" now?


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