I caught up with Lukes from Morgan Heritage, following their recent performance at the Jamaica 50 celebrations at The o2 Arena, London, as part of their European tour. This is what was said:
H: What are your favourite reggae tracks?
L: There’s a lot of them, I’ve got different favourites - that’s a big question!
H: Do you have any particular style that you prefer?
L: Wow! Ooh, OK! I like different kind of genres - I like dancehall, some hip hop, not all hip hop…RnB, soul, country, you know - it’s wide.
Above: Morgan Heritage (from left); Lukes, Peetah, Gramps, Una and Mr Mojo
H: For you, other than your own band, who represents the true ‘reggae’ sound?
L: You have a lot of people doing it out there, Tarrus is a good act, Luciano is a good act, you have a young group - I was on the same stage as Raging Fyah. There’s a lot of people representing; Queen Ifrica is a very good act, Etana, Romain Virgo, the list goes on and on. There’s a lot of people standing up for this music, just like how we are.
H: I’ve been kindly sent your new EP by VP Records in advance of its release on August 13th, which is really great by the way; very upbeat and dynamic.
L: Thank you!
H: So what are your next projects?
L: The next project is to complete the full album, which is scheduled to be out early 2013, so that’s where we’re at.
H: Do the solo projects of your siblings ever clash with the group work?
L: No, it doesn’t clash. I mean, there’s been a lot of rumours that the group has broken up or stuff like that. The group has never been broken up, so we came together as a unit and decided to take a break and do some solo projects, so each member can mature within themselves. They don’t clash, we just communicate all the time, make sure schedules are open and take care of it from there.
H: Other than your Dad, Denroy, and his influence, what would you say got you into making music?
L: Well, the first inspiration comes from The Most High, that’s where all our inspirations come from. We’ve been influenced by a lot of different things; we grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts, where all we listened to was Top 40 radio, so we’re influenced by Duran Duran, Bon Jovi, Steel Pulse, Third World, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh. Peetah listened to a lot of Sam Cooke, Guy, James Ingram and Whitney Houston, so we’ve been influenced by straight across the board, a lot of different genres.
H: Why did you form the band?
L: Well, the band was formed by our Dad; thanks to him everyday. He put his career aside after his major hit record, he saw the talent in us and decided to put us together, and ever since we’ve been doing it.
H: Do you miss the US lifestyle you had before you moved to Jamaica?
L: It’s the same, we never grew up Americans, we grew up like Jamaicans, that’s how we live, we live our culture and our life like we’re in Jamaica, so it’s not of change of anything.
L: It was phenomenal. It was brilliant. You know, we just feel honoured to be even invited, to be a part of the celebration of Jamaica’s 50th Anniversary. It was a beautiful show.
H: For sure, it was a huge line-up, I was looking at the names.
L: It was, serious line-up!
H: Wish I’d been there, a bit too far to fly from Taiwan!
L: (laughs at my terrible joke)
H: How do you feel about digital music and whether vinyl will die out?
L: Well that’s cool, it’s just the time that we live in. It doesn’t matter to me. It’s just a digital world that we are living in. Everybody’s got an iPad, an Android or stuff like that, so we just gotta move with the time of technologies and make sure we don’t get left behind. Kids these days are getting more technical, nobody wants to buy CD’s anymore, everyone wants to have it on the go, so I think it’s a good thing.
H: What do you think about Kartel and the whole Cake Soap, whitening business dancehall stars bringing out their own fashion lines and products like Street Vybz rum, Yard Swag or Clarks?
L: Everybody has their audience and Kartel has his audience and there’s the people that appreciate him for what he is. Respect Kartel for what he brings to the music and that type of influence that he has on his audience, so that’s Kartel’s audience - we can’t respond on what he is doing or whatever because you haffi talk to Kartel for that. So, that’s where that is.
H: What about the direction of dancehall? Some messages, you could argue, are less meaningful than perhaps they used to be in the old skool days when dancehall was a newer thing?
L: Well, things have to grow. Modern dancehall, old dancehall, it’s still ‘dancehall’. The music is changing, people are growing up, the times are changing - kids are listening to different things now, so you have to move with the time.
H: Some of your tunes have very deep messages in them, so do you feel that reggae should be a conscious thing with a serious message, or is it OK to mix in fun and partying?
L: Reggae is for everybody. You’re going to have reggae that is conscious, you’re going to have reggae that is talking about partying, you’re going to have reggae that is talking about love. We cannot hold the reggae that is must be one type of ‘reggae’ or whatever. It can’t be that way because at the end of the day, we don’t get up and eat one type of food all day everyday, you understand? You’re going to have different reggae bring a different tings, that’s how it is, that’s just life! You have many different colours within the rainbow, and it’s the same thing within reggae. You have many different songs can sing on reggae.
H: I remember in one of your tunes, ‘Nothing To Smile About’, you speak about the realities of life in Jamaica, what is it really like?
L: Well, every country has its ghettos and every country have a beautiful part. Jamaica is not Montego Bay or Ocho Rios where tourists come, that’s a different side of Jamaica. You need to see the real part of Jamaica. Kingston and these ghettos throughout the island; that’s the real side of Jamaica. There’s suffering going on in Jamaica, just like there’s suffering going on in Haiti and all over the world like in Africa, so there’s no difference in Jamaica, the life is that things are hard in the world for everybody. For a little island like that, things are just going to be hard. The reality is that there’s not enough jobs, the schooling is expensive, the price of everything is going up, but people’s wages aren’t going up, they’re rather going down. The expense to live each and every day is going up. Your electricity bill is getting higher, you’re not making any more money. You’re not using any more light, but your light bill gone up 10%.
H: But we have Mr Vegas with tunes like ‘Sweet Jamaica’ which paints an idyllic picture…
L: As I said, on different songs you get different tings, just like Vegas talking about Sweet Jamaica and then you have us talking about the realities of what’s going on, that there’s nothing to smile about, when you’re looking at Riverton City, Tivoli Gardens, Trenchtown and those places, yet there’s parts of Jamaica that is sweet Jamaica. But, I wouldn’t give up Jamaica for the world, we love Jamaica.
A police officer stands guard blocks away from the Tivoli Gardens neighbourhood
H:Rastafarianism is something that really intrigues me as a belief, having grown up in England with a Christian family. In one of Morgan Heritage’s songs, you said that you don’t have to ‘be dread to be Rasta’, so what does Rastafarianism mean to you?
L: Rastafari is not an ‘ism’, Rastafari is I and I faith of Haile Selassie First. Now, Rastafarians and Christians were all in the same. There’s no difference between Christ; his Majesty teaches us to look to Christ, so, a lot of people look at us as Rastas and say that we are praising a ‘man’. I give knowledge to I and I - he represents things to The Most High. We never lived the time when were able to see Christ. Now, we never say that Haile Selassie is God Almighty, though we know that there is an Omnipresent. There are prophesising revelations which say that there shall be One who is crowned King of Kings, Lord of Lords and Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Juda. Haile Selassie is the only man on this Earth that has worn that title.
The proof is in the pudding, if you read the Bible for yourself, and see it - everything is right there. So that’s just it - the faith is the same, the faith is love, peace and unity.
H: When do you fly home, have you had much of a chance to look around London and enjoy the Olympics?
L: There is no time to look at London, or visit! We fly back to mainland Europe tomorrow, to finish our tour.
Mad mad MAD visuals from Awe IX on this one - dreamscape/out of body experiences illustrated compendium biznis. Fits the minimal, understated soundtrack-like music, complete with delayed-out raw shreddy guitars, by Radiant Dragon perfectly.
Above: Still image from ‘Landor’
This has got to be opening set material, no doubt. Download the entire ‘Screengazers’ album here