NEW YORK – They may share the same long beards, curly pe’ot (sidelocks) and come from a similar Hasidic background, but don’t call Zusha the next Matisyahu.
While they site the Jewish reggae singer as one of their inspirations, this bearded band of neo-Hasidic hipsters are shaking up the music industry with their wordless melodies aimed at bringing people of all faiths closer to God.
“We’re playing music for unity, for connection, to bring all of the inspiration we got from our Judaism [to others] in a more universal way,” lead singer Shlomo Gaisin told FOX411.
The band knew their tunes were making a mark when their first EP debuted at No. 9 on Billboard’s World Music chart.
“My dad was freaking out,” guitarist Zachariah Goldshmiedt recalled. “He made a cut out of Billboard, but he had to cut out a picture of Nicki Minaj because it was inappropriate.”
Gaisin and his bandmates follow the traditions of Hasidism, a sect of Judaism which places on emphasis on practicing Jewish law and living every day life with added spirituality.
“Hasidism is– it’s a celebration of life,” explained Gaisin. “It’s making sure that our eyes aren’t focused on the darkness of the world, but on the lightness of world even if it’s tiny.”
While most of Zusha’s songs contain no lyrics, they are not voiceless. Gaisin’s voice can be heard singing repetitive sounds to convey emotion such as “bim-bim-bum.” The style of singing is typical of Hasidism.
“We do like to veer to the wordless because of it’s universalism,” explained percussionist Elisha Mlotek.
“Well the wordless in it’s very nature relatable to all people because there’s not specific language that connotes a connect to one specific people,” added Gaisin.
The 23-year-old Maryland native and his New Jersey-born bandmates come from different Jewish backgrounds, but were united by the teachings of the band’s spiritual advisor, Rabbi Dov Yonah Korn of New York City’s East Village Chabad House.
“[Rabbi Korn] been a huge inspiration in terms of the band itself,” explained Goldshmiedt. “His message is basically not to shy away from the world to confront the world…you should have the ability to bring joy to the world in an authentic way. He calls it ‘Jewish swag.'”
The band is taking their “Jewish swag” and using it in their music to help relate to people of all kinds.
“We’re all Jewish so proud of it and we’re connected to our roots,” said Gaisin. “And that inspires us in an incredible way to connect to the world. So yeah, technically by very nature we’re a Jewish band, but we’re connecting with the entire world. Our music is not just Jewish.”
“We want to bring that message of Hasidism, which is joy, which is simplicity, which is finding the meaning in every day life. We want bring that to everybody and not just a certain group of people,” Goldshmiedt added.
Faith & Fame is a regular column exploring how a strong belief system helps some performers navigate the pitfalls of the entertainment industry.
By Sasha Borgursky