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Matisyahu Agrees to Play at Controversial Spanish Reggae Fest


Earlier this week, Matisyahu was kicked off the lineup for Spain’s Rototom Sunsplash festival after the Jewish-American reggae artist failed to respond to their requests to appear in a video endorsing Palestine. But after facing criticism from Spain’s foreign ministry, the fest’s organizers issued a statement admitting their “mistake” and offered Matisyahu his August 22nd slot back. Now the musician has issued his own statement accepting the reinstatement, which he calls a “victory.” 

“Today, music wins,” he wrote on Facebook. “Spain, this Saturday Aug 22nd. I have always believed in the power of music to unite all people, regardless of religion, politics or geography. This was an excruciating decision, as I felt that my core, essential being was being used as a pawn for political convenience. It is my deep conviction however that acceptance and the ability for rebirth allow us to move forward.

“The incredible outpouring of worldwide support from fans and organizations who rose up as one to protest the intrusion of politics into a borderless celebration of music has been humbling,” he continued. “My deepest thanks to the worldwide community for rallying to the cause of musical freedom. Most of all, thank you to my incredible fans and to so many people of all faiths who refused to remain silent in the name of artistic freedom. This is your victory.”

Other artists at Rototom Sunsplash threatened to back out of the fest since they felt Matisyahu was “seen to represent Israel,” and the festival replaced the performer with reggae artist Etana. But organizers later admitted their wrongdoing, noting that they “made a mistake due to the boycott and the campaign of pressure, coercion and threats employed by the BDS País Valencià because it was perceived that the normal functioning of the festival could be threatened. All of which prevented the organization from reasoning clearly as to how to deal with the situation properly.”

“I support peace and compassion for all people,” Matisyahu told Rolling Stone of the controversy. “My music speaks for itself, and I do not insert politics into my music. Music has the power to transcend the intellect, ideas and politics, and it can unite people in the process. The festival kept insisting that I clarify my personal views, which felt like clear pressure to agree with the BDS political agenda.

“Honestly it was appalling and offensive, that as the one publicly Jewish-American artist scheduled for the festival, they were trying to coerce me into political statements,” he continued. “Were any of the other artists scheduled to perform asked to make political statements in order to perform? No artist deserves to be put in such a situation simply to perform his or her art. Regardless of race, creed, country, cultural background, etc., my goal is to play music for all people. As musicians, that is what we seek.”

Matisyahu’s latest concert LP, Live At Stubbs III, is out October 2nd. Tour dates are available at his website. 

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