Folkadelphia Session: Jonah Matranga

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I’ve found that it is nearly impossible to depart from a Jonah Matranga concert and not feel a swell of strong emotions. It is a choked-up enthusiasm that rails against the sternum, fortifies the heart, pumps out the adrenaline, and puts you in a state of renewed compassion for humanity. Goosebumps do follow. Seriously, I am not indulging in exaggerated descriptions for the sake of your continued readership, as I may have in the past, but am stating how seeing, nay, experiencing Matranga play has been for me and countless others. You might call this a shared cathartic experience. Shared catharsis between the audience members, but also with the performer.

Matranga has an unquenchable love of music and thrives on drawing people into it. This is definitely not always the case with musicians. As a society tapped into real-time updates on every single article of news and every event that takes place, I often believe that we become unsurprised by life, jaded even, and walled off to occurances that might shake us up in new and differing ways. Matranga aims straight for this shell. Taking the lead, Matranga creates a safe show environment to act out – to sing-a-long, look goofy, talk about feelings, talk about good times and bad times, to be genuinely excited about the here-and-now. He roars, rants, and raves, digresses in the middle of songs to make a funny comment, makes calls for requests and even song edits from the crowd. At his recent concert in Philadelphia at the First Unitarian Church Chapel, of which he continually stopped to marvel at as one of his favorites spaces, Matranga started his first song, the acapella “Sing,” as he strolled from the entrance to the stage. “Sing” by all accounts is a silly and whimsical song about the love of singing. Like the whole concert, it is designed to elicit responses and reactions. Everyone starts of with nervous, maybe embarassed laughter and tense energy, but slowly that shell around each person melts away and you start seeing smiles and nods. Then you start hearing participation. Folks are looking around at each other knowingly – no one is in a rush to leave because there is something special here

Admittedly, if this was your first Matranga experience, you might scoff and call it a schtick, a put-on act, but I think you would quickly change your mind. At this point in his musical career, Jonah has pretty much done everything: toured the world, played to audiences sized both massive and tiny, released major label, indie label, self distributed albums, and collaborated with countless other musicians. At this point in his career, it’s certainly about the music, the fans, and their intersection and interaction. His performances are about as honest as they come. There’s much that we can learn from Matranga about staying passionate, creative, and open-minded in the pursuit of your dreams – as you can see, he’s still at it himself.

In addition to releasing music under his own name, Jonah Matranga has performed as and with onelinedrawing, Far, New End Original, Gratitude, I Is Another, and more. He recently successfully funded his forthcoming album (I Really Love Your) Company via Kickstarter and that’s where the songs from our Folkadelphia Session are culled from. He performed at the First Unitarian Church on September 23rd, 2013. We’ll see him again soon.

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