Jewish singer barred, then reinvited to festival

Singer Matisyahu performed at the Rototom Sunsplash festival in Spain yesterday.
Singer Matisyahu performed at the Rototom Sunsplash festival in Spain yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BENICASSIM, SPAIN • An American Jewish musician, who was controversially barred from a reggae festival in Spain before being invited back to play, performed to catcalls from some pro-Palestinian protesters yesterday, though the concert passed off peacefully after a tense build-up.

Matisyahu, who fuses reggae, hip-hop and rock with Jewish influences in his songs, was uninvited from the Rototom Sunsplash festival last week, when he failed to reply to a demand to clarify his position on Palestinian statehood.

Organisers were forced into a U-turn after an outcry, with the Spanish government and Jewish organisations condemning the decision, and invited the artist to play on the last night of the week-long festival.

Amid a packed audience at the event in Benicassim, near Valencia in eastern Spain, dozens of people whistled in disapproval as Matisyahu took the stage in the early hours of yesterday, with some waving Palestinian flags and chanting "out, out".

But many others in the audience of hundreds applauded the musician as the concert got under way.

"Whoever you are and wherever you come from, raise a flag and wave it in the air," he called to the crowd before his closing song.

"Let music be your flag," he added, after dancing his way through his 45-minute set.

Matisyahu, whose real name is Matthew Miller, earlier this week condemned the attempt to "coerce (him) into political statements" and said politics played no part in his music.

The campaign to eject him was led by the Valencia branch of the BDS group, which opposes Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories and campaigns against groups and individuals over their links to Israel.

It had urged a boycott of the American Jewish musician, after objecting to comments he had previously made, including in an interview where they said he had questioned the existence of a country called Palestine.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2015, with the headline 'Jewish singer barred, then reinvited to festival'. Print Edition | Subscribe