Wandering the savage garden…

Making Modern Music

Yesterday, my son and I were looking for some appropriate Hanukkah music (as, of course, Hanukkah is upon us.) We listened to Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah song, as well as digging up the Maccabeats’ “Miracle” on Youtube, which was really pretty neat. (He liked Sandler’s song best, of course.)

However, the Maccabeats’ song makes a reference to Matisyahu. I don’t know where Matisyahu is in the Maccabeats’ video, but I’ve listened to a few songs of his, and decided to show my son some as well.

One Day” came up first on Youtube’s search.

I think I nearly cried through it, which can happen with some songs (Rush’ “Closer to the Heart” is one, for example)… but not many.

It focused my attention on the other stuff my son listens to – Drake, Ke$ha, Li’l Wayne. I don’t mind his music (much) – I don’t appreciate it, but he’s got his own path to find.

But what stood out to me was what Matisyahu does with similar beats and approaches, against what the… for lack of a better word, typical popular artist does.

Reggae stands out, first.

The main thing, though, is the focus of the music. Matisyahu makes reference to himself, because he’s using his personal point of view, but he’s not talking about himself.

Compare this to some of the other music my son listens to. “I’m bad, I stole a car, I’m dangerous, check my grill, my car, my woman, my crib, my tats, my prison record.”

It’s about the artist, directly, and it’s focusing attention on attributes that glorify only the artist or his aims.

In the grand scheme of the universe, these are very small concerns.

I have a reasonably nice vehicle, but I can’t imagine singing about what it is to other people – regardless of how nice it might be. I can’t imagine glorifying myself, because I’m not that important.

What Matisyahu does is more respectable: he’s looking at issues that matter (peace, mutual benefit, glorification to God) and using himself only to personalize the topic and influence others positively.

Typical pop music is about the artist and his or her desires.

The music I like most is “real,” about something important, instead – not that the artist isn’t important, but the artist’s importance is primarily to the artist and not to me, and my acceptance and appreciation of that importance will always be artificial.

That’s why I say it’s “real.”

“I got a nice car, I got a nice grill, I got a woman and I know she will” isn’t real – it’s me projecting the things I have onto you, somehow. The best I can hope for is to impress or stun you. The effort poured into the creation of such art is destructive, because the creation consumes everything that goes into its making.

But “I want our children to some day be able to play in peace in their way,” well, maybe it’s not perfectly formed, but it’s more real than personal glorification.

The effort poured into this “real” music is constructive, because hopefully it inspires someone to think this way, to see the world as something beautiful to be preserved, to bring the light of God through the shell of evil that surrounds us and into the world for all to see.


Originally published on Dec 22, 2011.

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