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December 22, 2016 3:05 pm

Matisyahu Protégé Bursts Onto Music Scene With Hanukkah Gigs in New York City

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Interview
Levi Robin. Photo: Facebook.

Levi Robin. Photo: Facebook.

An up-and-coming Jewish musician discovered by reggae star Matisyahu told The Algemeiner that he’s looking forward to performing songs from his debut album in New York City this week — and to be playing with his mentor on Thursday as part of the latter’s annual Festival of Light tour.

Hasidic folk singer Levi Robin, 24 , said that it’s especially meaningful for him, as an observant Jew, to appear on the scene during Hanukkah. The holiday’s message, he explained — “about the triumph of light over darkness and the few over the many” — is one of his guiding principles.

Robin, a Californian, said that his life changed after a chance meeting — while he was studying at a yeshiva in Safed — with an old friend of Matisyahu’s, who happened to be backpacking through Israel at the time. Robin offered to study Torah with him, but their conversation soon turned to music, and the two went to Robin’s dorm to play some songs together.

Robin recounted:

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I played him something and as I opened my eyes at the end of the song, he stands up and starts rebuking me saying, “I can’t stand people like you.” It really caught me off guard. He goes, “You probably have a lot of songs and they’re probably special, a real art, and you’re not doing anything with it. You have all these songs that you write behind closed doors and you’re not sharing them with the world. It’s selfish; you’re selfish. Whether you like it or not, make sure someone hears it.” I was just like, “Wow, you’re going 90 miles an hour, buddy. Slow down.”

A year later, the pair reconnected in the United States. By that time, Robin was studying at a yeshiva in New Jersey. One day, he received a call from the backpacker, who suddenly put Matisyahu on the phone. “Get your butt down here,” the famous reggae singer insisted. “I wanna hear your music. I’m here with my manager; I’m here with my boy, your friend here. He sang me a song he heard of yours, and I have to hear more.”

Robin told The Algemeiner that he “promptly” got on the next train to New York to meet Matisyahu and play for him. On the spot, Robin recounted, Matisyahu’s team offered him a management contract and the opportunity to accompany the singer on a cross-country tour. A few weeks later, Robin was on the road with Matisyahu, and performed at some 20 shows.

Robin said that, looking back, he has a “strange paradoxical feeling” that the years have gone by both fast and slowly. He said a lot of his tracks are focused on “awareness of the undercurrents of our lives,” which possess meaning and profundity that we may not always be attuned to. His music, he said, serves as an “invitation to listen deeply to our lives.”

Looking ahead, Robin said that he plans to release his records more quickly.

“I’m constantly writing songs, and I have a lot more than I can record,” he said. “These are the songs of my soul, and I try to arrange them, even on an aesthetic level, in a way that captures my inner desires and movements. A lot of this has been a lead-up to this point, of releasing a first album. It’s taken a lot of patience.”

Watch Levi Robin’s “Days of Our Youth” music video below:

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