Festival row

Matisyahu confirms he will perform at Spanish festival that banned him

Jewish singer’s gig had been canceled by Rototom under pressure from anti-Israel group

Matisyahu, in an archive image.
Matisyahu, in an archive image.Bobby Bank (WireImage)

Jewish-American reggae rapper Matisyahu has confirmed that he will perform at the Rototom Sunsplash festival in Benicàssim, Castellón province, on Saturday.

His decision comes following a week-long controversy after festival organizers initially canceled his appearance under pressure from the local branch of the BDS [Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions against Israel] movement, which wanted the musician to publicly outline his position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The incredible outpouring of worldwide support from fans and organizations has been humbling”

After Matisyahu – whose real name is Matthew Paul Miller – refused to make such a statement, Rototom canceled his concert fearing a boycott by BDS, but later reversed its decision and apologized.

“Today music wins. Freedom of expression wins,” Matisyahu wrote on his Facebook page on Friday.

“I have always believed in the power of music to unite all people, regardless of religion, politics or geography,” he said, adding that the fact he felt he had been “used as a pawn for political convenience” had made the decision over whether to perform “excruciating.”

“It is my deep conviction, however, that acceptance and the ability for rebirth allow us to move forward,” he said.

The move to cancel the singer’s concert had ignited criticism from the Spanish government and pro-Jewish groups, as well as strong statements from the US and Israeli embassies in Madrid. Matisyahu is originally from Pennsylvania.

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On Wednesday, festival organizers issued an apology and invited Matisyahu to perform as scheduled on Saturday.

“Rototom Sunsplash rejects anti-Semitism and any form of discrimination towards the Jewish community; we respect both their culture as religious beliefs and we sincerely apologize for what has occurred,” they said in a statement.

Matisyahu, who is currently on a European tour, also thanked everyone who had rallied to his cause. “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. My deepest thanks to the worldwide community for rallying to the cause of musical freedom.”

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