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LUCIANO: A MAN WITH A MESSAGE!

The reggae veteran and 2016 Grammy nominee on inspiring the younger generation and why certain Vybz Kartel songs shouldn’t have received radio airplay

Luciano—

ONE WORD that springs to mind after a conversation with Luciano is steadfast. Like a solid rock or a firmly rooted tree, the reggae star is, and has always been, unwavering in his mission to uplift and inspire through his music.

Known by reggae fans as ‘The Messenger’, the roots singer is unapologetic when sharing his disdain for the “dirty songs” he believes are polluting radio airwaves and he doesn’t hold back in lambasting the lyrical content of some of dancehall’s younger stars.

To those younger acts he chastises, Luciano may come across as a grumpy old-time artist, who simply is not, as Vybz Kartel might put it, ‘up to di time’. But in an age where many artists change their ethos in the quest for musical growth, it’s somewhat refreshing knowing that the 51-year-old’s messenger mission is the same today as it was yesterday, and will, know doubt, be the same tomorrow.

Luicano

Luicano

“When I look around the world, I see people who need help; people who need inspiration,” the Jamaican singer says of his enduring desire to make uplifting and thought-provoking music.

“God blessed me with a talent and it was important to me to use that talent to help people. The Bible says if a man builds a house and it’s not in God’s name, it will be built in vain. So if a man is singing and dancing and he’s not sending out a message, him ah sing in vain!”

The singer’s latest album, Zion Awake, wasn’t made in vain, if award recognition is anything to go by, as it is nominated for Best Reggae Album at the 2016 Grammy Awards.

“It would make me feel good to win,” the singer admits. “But if I don’t get it, I’ll still continue.

LucianoZionAwake

“I’ve made many albums and I wondered why those albums hadn’t been nominated. But I came to understand that there is a process that one has to go through. The album has to be submitted to the Grammy committee, which means some of the best albums can go unnoticed if they aren’t submitted. So I’m grateful that mine was submitted and then nominated.”

In the Best Reggae Album category, Luciano’s offering is up against Jah Cure’s The Cure; Barrington Levy’s Acousticalevy; Strictly Roots by Morgan Heritage andBranches of the Same Tree by Rocky Dawuni.

“Barrington Levy’s album is a good one,” Luciano says of his fellow nominee. “It’s a good acoustic album.”

Describing his own record, Luciano says: “The message is strong on this album. It’s called Zion Awake and we really do need people to be awake in these times. There’s so much going on in the world right now. Even in the dancehall, you can see a lot going on that needs addressing.”

Luciano

Luciano

Famed for songs including It’s Me Again Jah, Give Praise and the massive reggae sing-along anthem, Sweep Over My Soul, Luciano is particularly concerned with the music some young people are being exposed to.

“There is a place for everything, but there are some things that have gone completely out of context,” reasons the singer, who released his debut album, Moving Up in 1993. “You have some artists saying dem deh pon school tour – carrying their dirty songs and singing them in schools. If I was the principal at them schools, I would lock them artists out at the gate!”

Making reference to two of dancehall’s newer exports, the singer continues: “Dem yout’s there like Alkaline and… wha him name? Gage? Dem yout’s who ah sing all kind of nonsense; it’s one thing for them to carry that music to nightclubs, but that kind of music shouldn’t be performed in schools and some shouldn’t even be played on radio.

Luciano:mic

“Radio is a public facility that is used to educate, inspire and notify people with news bulletins and those kind of things. So when certain music gets played on the radio, it really breaks down the moral standard of our country.

“Certain dirty music should only be played in nightclubs. Like Vybz Kartel; some of his songs should never have been played on radio. Some of these songs should be strictly for the dancehall – not for kids to hear on the school bus.”

Reflecting on why some of today’s young dancehall acts are opting to make the type of music he considers unsavoury, Luciano says: “Honestly, I think it’s because they can get away with it. They realise that nobody nah run them or stone them!

“Artists of my generation know that in the days of old, if you said certain things that weren’t right, you would get held to account. But these yout’s nowadays know they can get away with some of their dirty behaviour, maybe because people are too scared to challenge them.”

Still, Luciano is resolute about “maintaining my standards” in his own career and he’s keen to urge young people to be true to themselves.

Luciano:stage2013

“I just want to encourage the youngsters out there,” he confirms. “Don’t get caught up with the bling and the hype. Be who you are and don’t try to be like anybody else.
“If you’re a black man, stay a black man; don’t bleach out your skin and try and be something you’re not. Keep yourself pure.

“Same way God send you to Earth, keep yourself that way so that when you return to the Almighty he will recognise you!”

Zion Awake is out now on VP Records

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