(RNS) — Shania Twain’s electrifying duet with Harry Styles wasn’t the only surprising turn at the Coachella music festival in Indio, California, last weekend (April 15-17). Outside the festival’s entrance, rapper Kosha Dillz, whose real name is Rami Matan Even-Esh, conducted 10-minute Passover Seders, complete with boiled eggs and horseradish.
The phenomenon began as a way to enjoy a Seder meal with festivalgoers who missed enjoying the Passover meal with their families. But Dillz told Religion News Service that Matzahchella has morphed over the years. This weekend, he said he welcomed about 100 participants, including many first-timers, to join one of the seven Seders he hosted Friday and Saturday evening.
“It was so nice to do something I would have done anyway, being authentic, and still serve a purpose,” said Dillz, who was born in New Jersey to Israeli parents and is currently based in Brooklyn.
The seed for Matzahchella was planted in 2012 at the Paid Dues Festival, a hip-hop festival that took place during Passover in San Bernardino, California, that year. Dillz, who performed there, knew he’d miss sharing a Seder meal with his family. He decided to team up with Rabbi Yonah Bookstein and his nonprofit Shabbat Tent to host a Passover Seder at his merchandise tent. Bookstein even created an abbreviated Haggadah — the Seder’s written liturgy — for the occasion.
When Shabbat Tent isn’t hosting Matzahchella, the group provides a cost-free refuge where fans can regroup and unwind at Coachella and other music and film festivals.
“The hospitality tent is a place where people can unplug from the craziness of the festival. They can recharge, relax and enjoy refreshments,” Bookstein told RNS. Volunteers offer water, activities like crafts or face painting and Shabbat meals too. “We see this as a way of spreading the idea of radical hospitality,” he said, an important component of Shabbat, or Sabbath.
Though Bookstein and his wife, Rachel, are normally on the ground hosting Matzahchella alongside Dillz, this year they’re in Poland, hosting Passover Seders with Ukrainian refugees.
While a music festival may seem an odd place for a religious meal, Bookstein said that California’s Colorado Desert is an entirely appropriate location. “Passover is the time we tell the story of how the people left slavery in Egypt, and made their way across the desert, and here we are in the desert, having Passover.”
Though not particularly religious, Dillz said his Jewish culture is still an important part of his identity. Dillz rhymes in Yiddish and Hebrew, in addition to English and Spanish, and his raps about matzah and Passover have gone viral. He has also toured with Jewish reggae performer Matisyahu.
While Dillz hopes to play Coachella one day, his motto is “we outside, ‘till we inside,” and he looks forward to when Matzachella “will become part of the main Coachella experience.”
This story has been updated to show that the real name of Kosha Dillz is Rami Matan Even-Esh. A previous version said Rami Matan.