This Interview is recently published in Irie Magazine Issue #9 which is available for download here:
IRIE. How did you decide to introduce yourself to the world as Luciano? When I think of the name Luciano I think of the opera singer Luciano Pavarotti?
LUCIANO. Well you are thinking in the right direction. I had a different stage name previously but it was suggested I change my stage name because that name was doing nothing for me. So we reviewed a set of names and decided on Luciano. Somehow that name appealed to me from the time I heard it. I researched the meaning of the name and found out it meant “bearer of the light”. I thought to myself it was a good name with great meaning and energy.
IRIE. Your music expresses an appreciation for the strength and beauty of women. So much of today’s music paints such a negative portrait of women. Can you speak to the importance of women in your life? LUCIANO. Women are very important to the continued development of life itself.
LUCIANO. God created Man in his own image he made male and female. From the beginning of creation women played a vital role. Even when you speak of Jesus Christ and his Majesty. Mary and the Immaculate Conception of Jesus Christ. The birth of Haile Selassie would not have been possible without his mother, Yeshimebet. My father passed away when I was eleven so my mother primarily raised my eight siblings and me. My mother had a lot of strength and we all got a lot of inspiration from my mom. Today, my siblings have their own families. We all owe our existence to women.
IRIE. At what age did you realize you were Rasta? What was it about the Rasta way of life and belief that grabbed your attention and life focus?
LUCIANO. I believe the concept (belief) in Rastafari is inborn. I remember when I was twelve years old my mother gave me a t-shirt. I couldn’t wear it to school so I took the shirt home and drew a picture of Rastaman and a chalice on that shirt. So I realized I was Rasta from early on so it has to be inborn.
There was a Rastaman in my community I had come to have love and respect for. He was always kind, peaceful and generous. This man would always impart knowledge upon the youth. Rastafari always appealed to me because it was just natural. The Rastafari I knew always ate natural food, they knew and chanted the bible. They always encouraged us to stay on the right path.
Rastafari is the light of the world because they teach mankind how to eat and live naturally. I grew up in the church. My father was an evangelist. While reading the bible, somehow it came across to me that Rastafari guides the light. I realized that his majesty, Haile Selassie I, is Christ. He as knowledge of Christ came first as the lamb, and then he came as the Lion to rule and reign.
IRIE. “Sweep Over My Soul” is one of my all-time favorites songs because a I feel like praising God’s presence in my life whenever I hear it. How does it make you feel to know that your music touches people in this way?
LUCIANO. Give thanks. Just beautiful. The songs affect me in too. I remember there were a few songs I did on that riddim. One day after leaving the studio I told the engineer to put that song on a different track because I wanted to sing something different. When I went back to the studio the next day I recorded ‘Sweep Over My Soul’. It was done in one straight recording. The words just came to me. I didn’t have to go back and fix anything. So I knew it was divine inspiration that gave me that song.
IRIE. I know Bob Andy wrote the song, Create Your History, on the Qabalah Man. Share with us what how it felt for you to work with such a legendary figure within reggae music history?
LUCIANO. Well I was really humbled to work with such a pioneer. Bob Andy is a great spirit and I was honored to work with him. He is one of the greatest songwriters in Jamaican music history. Some of the great songs he wrote include Fire Burning with Marcia Griffiths and Desperate Lover. Just a great honor and privilege to work and share a studio with such a man. I wish that he could be honored as a King because he is a true pioneer of the music. It really touched my heart that someone so great can still be so humble. So special to share a song with one of the greats of Jamaican music.
IRIE. The Qabalah Man is the title of your latest album. I picture Kabbalah and it’s design to create harmony and balance. How did you come up with the title, Qabalah Man?
LUCIANO. When I went to the studio in Jamaica I was in the presence of The Mighty General. We would always reason about spiritual topics and other deep meaningful matters. I have always felt that if you really want to reason it is important to have knowledge. I am usually on a quest to learn and during my studies I came across Qabalah. The Qabalah studies teach about the Tantra. The man is the tree and we nourish the Tantra. In Qabalah you are guided by the principles of righteousness as laid by God. I somehow tie the music with the concept of Qabalah, unveiling the power that is within us. There is no part of life that you can’t live without music because it’s in the universe. The word itself speaks as a song.
We all need to realize we all move as one vibration in creation. We all have one vibration, which is live itself. The breathing, in and out, that is one vibration. Every living being has to abide by this principle to live. If you are breathing then you are living. Once you stop breathing, life is over. Qabalah teaches how to nurture your body and unleash the power within. As a youth I was always fascinated by the truth. Anyway I could acquire knowledge I would. My study of Qabalah is an example of that. After a while, Mighty General began calling me the Qabalah Man. Everyone would say The Qabalah Man is here.
IRIE. One of my favorites from the Qabalah Man is Speak Your Mind. How important is it for people to speak their minds?
LUCIANO. It is important to really have the truth as your guide and to be able to have a clear conscience. When you can’t speak your mind it can settle feelings of bitterness inside of you. Some people hold what they want to say inside of them and this is the type of thing that causes illnesses to your body.
IRIE. The Qabalah Man also features a tribute to the great Dennis Brown. How has this great artist influenced your career?
LUCIANO. Yes the great Dennis Brown has been one of the great influencers of my career. I also grew up on Bob Marley’s music but I gravitated to Dennis Brown’s way of singing. The way he sings, expresses his words and even the baritone voice, I have the same texture of voice. He is one of my greatest teachers, one of my masters. I grew up with his music so when I finally got the chance to meet him I couldn’t believe that he was so humble. He was so nice and always smiling. I never saw him angry or upset. I can’t believe he is not here today because he had such a good heart. He should be here with us right now. I think we can learn from him though because he became addicted to certain substances. We have to be careful of what we expose ourselves to. In one of his songs he has the lyric (So Jah Say) “we must not let him down.” He let himself down. Because he was taking certain drugs he became weak. Spiritually you become very vulnerable to all different types of attacks.
He was a great singer but in some ways he had problems and became a victim of the same circumstances he chanted about. For instance when you listen to songs like, To The Foundation, you have to realize he is was actually singing about himself. I am working on a tribute album to Dennis Brown and it is almost complete. An album was released earlier this year with Mad Professor that included my versions of Dennis Brown’s Deliverance and Three Meals a Day.
IRIE. One of the things I have witnessed from your live shows is “the flip”. What inspires you to do the flip during your show?
LUCIANO. I have been doing the flip from a tender age. I would lay down the banana leaves from the trees and flip on them. So I found that the flip is always something I can do to energize myself. It gives me a rush to my brain. The flip gives me an additional release and more energy. A fan asked me the other day how much longer do I plan to do this flip and I had to laugh because I don’t know. When I am on stage I like to make the fans feel good so it’s a part of the show I like to give them. I don’t like going on stage and just singing in some tight pants. I mean they would rip. I need to go on stage wearing something loose so I can move around.
IRIE. I witnessed your live performances over the years and the feeling I get is that I am attending a religious gathering where I felt the audience received the message from the Messenjah. I get the sense that your performances are your spiritual journey that you sharing with us.
LUCIANO. Give thanks. Yes it is exactly that because what I learn I like to share with everyone. I like to arm my fans with knowledge. I like it to feel like it’s a natural mystic vibe, not some preacher standing on the pulpit kind of thing. I talk to my fans in a very subtle way and at the same time I encourage them. It feels good to leave my fans with some inspiration.
IRIE. We are currently living in Babylon; when we leave this earth is physical form we will see Zion. What do you think about this statement?
LUCIANO. Well I believe Zion is right here on earth. It must be a reason that God continues to send people to earth to live. I believe that God created Earth and he created man to have dominion so this place is a very special place. The bible talks about the sons of God coming down to Earth and having children with the daughters of man. So if God will send his sons here, this place is special.
I believe that Zion is a state of consciousness and once you acknowledge that you will start to live a spiritual life that you stay away from the darkness and stay in the positive. That is how Zion will come about. You have a lot of people going through hell because they made the wrong decisions and done the wrong things.
For instance some people just drink and drink, not taking into account the damage being done to their kidneys or destroying their liver. Some people may eat the wrong things that can result with your system shutting down and people won’t act on it until they are feeling pain. That is not the way we should live. We should all treat our bodies right and live so we can live past our 90’s. We all deserve to have a happy life here on Earth. We should love and share the gift of life. I believe the wrong action and decisions can bring about Babylon.
IRIE. Thirty years after Peter’s Tosh’s classic, Jamaica has agreed to legalize it. What do you think of Jamaica’s decision to finally legalize the herb?
LUCIANO. I always felt the Jamaican Government was behind everyone else, never looking forward. The government didn’t start talking about legalizing marijuana until after other nations made strides in this effort and now look; the Jamaican Government is behind once again. The Jamaican Government is very late. If they would have legalized before everyone else they could have paid off all the debt that the country owes.
Jamaica is a world icon. People look to us but no Jamaica keeps waiting to see what America does before they make a decision. But the saying is better late than never so legalize it the right way. Everyone is looking at multiple uses of the plant. The herb has the power to heal sickness, very powerful herb. The government forgets the plant is not just for smoking. The plant also has industrial uses but the government just looks at the Rastaman burning chalice.
IRIE. It seems every few years there are new artists introduced to the market and they make waves. The current iteration of a wave of new artists is referred to as the “reggae revival”. If you can share one message of wisdom to these artists, what would that message be?
LUCIANO. Well first let me say it is not a revival because you can only revive something after it is dead. It is not a revival but a resurgence of the culture. I like it and I am very happy the people are supporting Chronnix, Protoje, Dub Kronik Band, Raging Fyah, & Jah 9. All of the artists in the resurgence and others not discovered I would say write your own songs. Take some time and let knowledge sink in and write your songs. Learn an instrument. Whether it is the guitar, piano, keyboards, doesn’t matter just learn how to play it. A good instrument to learn to play is the keyboard or the piano or even the Congo drums because with these instrument you can also sing your praises at the same time. It’s great to have the knowledge of playing an instrument as a complement to your talent. Knowing how to play an instrument will help you write a song because you learn your harmonies. I would also tell artists to follow their own hearts not others or trends. Look at Natural Black, he thought roots music was dead and nothing was happening but now look there is a resurgence. When you choose to the live the roots life and culture you have to stand firm and know there will be rough and tough times. Don’t sell out your birthright because of the temptations of Babylon.
IRIE. Ethiopia. What is your relationship with the birthplace of Haile Selassie I?
LUCIANO. I would die for his majesty. While I was treated with respect in Gambia, I now have a home there; I was not given the same treatment in Ethiopia. Americans, Europeans, and other nations can go into Ethiopia but no such provisions are made for Jamaicans. If you are some type of star then provisions will be made for you. I would have to go somewhere in England to get a Visa to enter Ethiopia. If you are Jamaican and can’t get a Visa from America or Europe you will have a proplem entering Ethiopia. It’s surprising that Jamaicans would receive this treatment because Haile Selassie made provisions for us to settle in Shashamane.
When I go to Gambia I do not experience this type of treatment, they treat me as if I were a king coming home. They take care of my bags and have no problems taking my passport. I do not even need a visa to go to Gambia or Kenya. When I noticed this difference in treatment vs. Ethiopia I knew something was not right. Because in Rastafari, we hail his majesty and he is from the kingdoms of King Solomon and Queen of Sheba. Many Ethiopians do not see Selassie I as the Conquering Lion from the Tribe of Judah. They even removed the Lion out of the flag and replaced him with a five-point star.
I remember going to Ethiopia in 2000 and was hoping they would make some type of allowance for Jamaicans that wanted to come there but no such provisions were made. We received the same treatment. One gentleman was trying to enter the country, from Ghana, to take part in the celebrations and they would not allow him entry.
I haven’t been back to Ethiopia because Babylon is taking over. There is still some people holding on to their traditions and more of the culture side but Ethiopia is being colonized right now in a different way. That is my perspective of what is going on. Please know that I love Ethiopia and it will always be a spiritual place. Ethiopia means a lot to us Rastafarians as we look to a higher place. We look to Ethiopia as the greatest place spiritually.
IRIE. Are you still considering making Africa your permanent residence? I know Gambia has granted you land.
LUCIANO. When going to Africa it is important to connect with your tribe of origin. Your root. I find when I go to Goree Island in Senegal or El Amina Castle in
Ghana there is an indescribable connection to my roots. As you know, most slaves were taken from the west coast of Africa. I toured Senegal, Ivory Coast and Gambia. It is in Gambia that I found my root, my people. I couldn’t believe it when I found a man that looked just like me. When I saw him I just couldn’t believe. I know my root is from there, it has to be. Now I love Ethiopia and a place for them will always be in my heart but West Africa calls and beckons me. The government and the people welcomed me with open arms. They love me there. Yes it is home. They are loving people.
By Maliika Walker