Francesca D’Onofrio met with Luciano at his Messenjah Productions Studio in Kingston, Jamaica, on July 19, 2001. He talked about all the changes happening with him and his new band. As far as we know, it is the first in depth interview since Luciano cancelled his European “Great Controversy” tour.
“THE MESSENJAH SPEAKS”
Within the past few months, I caught your show for the “New Day” CD tour several times. The shows were wonderful. There was alot of positive feedback on the internet concerning the tour. However, as your tour continued on to Europe, there was some news out there that while in the Netherlands the tour had stopped and you made the decision to return to Jamaica.
But this was really another tour that we were planning for because we completed the 7 weeks tour in USA. This other tour was planned for Europe. It’s a “Great Controversy” tour which should have been 3 weeks really. I would look at it disturbance in the family, yuh know, cuz I see the group, the team Firehouse, the Daffodils and myself, we grow into a family. When I came into town when I started recording at Exterminator, Firehouse was already there. It was an entity really that had established itself. And now the Daffodils backing vocals we have found very integral, very important in the whole presentation of the music. Same way we have it on the CDs we always try to make sure it comes across the same vibes and vibration and so it’s been a great work. But because of certain developments… (pause), I have noticed over the years I have really tried to walk with the sistren and the brothers as a Rastaman really. I have established clearly that I am a Rastaman from creation. I have managed to overlook many things over the years for the sake of peace and love of the music. I have really allowed quite a few times trespassing in my own philosophy in the terms of way of life, way of thinking how I expect like code of dressing and so on. As a Rastaman we have our own philosophy toward that and I realize there has been a stubbornness slightly from the sisters to help to really strengthen InI in that. I have managed to compromise over the years and to work with it but since this last event which has caused this kind of disturbance I have made a note to one of the backup singers about a certain jean span that was her code of dressing and her attitude was not as Empress as I expected, yuh know. To me I am a respectable person I show respect to people and if you reach a stage where people we are working with don’t have that respect that you are really looking for it hurts you, it break you down. If you’re not careful you can lose your cool cuz yuh know what you stand for, yuh know you give respect to people, you expect that.
And these wonderful Empresses that are working with me I expect that they should at least try to overstand my status as a Rastaman, yuh know. And apparently Uncle Dusty the drummer didn’t see it so nice so things turned up because I made a one speech about her way and the way the sister answered me yuh know it led into a conversation which she got out of hand. And at one time I really had to address the matter. But being truthful yuh know Empress, I never wanted that, I have managed to cope with stubbornness with people over the years and I reached a great height. I have no regrets with the work I have done with the Firehouse and the Daffodils and in my own evidence right now I just have to believe I have a principle as a Rastaman and feel say the Empress to wear her skirt at least three inches below her knee and if she feel she wear pants or so while she like on the bus, like on tour, we cannot over that. But like on stage or even when while we’re at rehearsals and so on, to me, these are points or locations of duty so we should respect that because within the duty, within the boundaries of our duty, we must have principles around it yuh know.
I’m sure it’s a difficult situation because it is like a break up within a family.
Yes, but as I see it the whole human family because I have people like loved ones who I have been singing with earlier in my earlier years. I know they have good intentions and they have skills and I’ve not given them a chance to really do their part. So the whole thing is a growing process, every one of us is a part of the whole human family and once God has designated us to do a certain work we should do it respectfully, respecting those who Jah put above us because there is a head at order. Any body that don’t have a head don’t know what’s going on can’t have no form of vision. Because I’m saying no matter how big the band is, Firehouse or Daffodils, the head of the whole tradition and the whole band must be Luciano lead singer, you understand. Mr. Forbes is my personal management, he acts in the form of a management who makes sure things are regulated, we reach the airport in time, we get our tickets ready and we hit the plane, we get our hotels once we reach our venue and yuh know once we reach our destination and things are regulated. So I’m saying we must have a head that really set up example and set a protocol by which we all should abide. I have done so and it has caused a disturbance. To me that is not right. If one should respect and know that I have a feeling or so and as a human being I have my rights.
When I am on tour and I watch the Gong or Brother Bob Marley and the I-Threes with their royalty I feel so moved within my soul, I don’t know about anybody else. When I went to Africa, I cried when I see the missing elements that we black people out there in the western hemisphere have to be really succumbing to and living without, living without the right element and succumbing to the Babylon system. We have really breached alot in terms of falling short in Jah sight and I say in my own little way of rebuilding or restoring my understanding of God’s kingdom or heritage, there is a principle yuh know. God said “man is the head and the woman is the heart”. The man rule with reason and judgement while the woman rules with emotion and there is no other way. If the head said, “Empress, no over tight jeans and a short skirt and some likkle belly blouse and some blouse exposing some likkle parts”, (pause) and yuh know to me I don’t like that yuh know. I think that Zion is a holy place. No sin can enter there. The first place of Zion that I know is within my own conscience. Before I can find it no where else, the highest mountain, highest region within my own knowing there is truth and right. And everyone has his rights. Give thanks.
Some of your fans have wondered how you are doing personally.
Empress, for my fans out there I know there is alot of speculation going on and people saying this and talking this. But to me they know me, and over the years they have seen me in action. They seen me in concerts. They see I take time out to sign my autographs, they see how I take time to do my interviews. I don’t run from my work, I love my work, I love my duty. I take pride in it but I see some people romping and playing with my soul around here Empress you see. So I have to take stance now and make note InI a serious Rastaman who have nothing else in mind but to do Jah works, to restore Jah kingdom and move on because I am not here for too long really. InI a time traveler man. And man and man some out of their minds, criticize and say alot of things and chat chat and run out their mouths. And sometime you feel like you’re wasting time almost because your knowledge that God has given you, you know you don’t need this kind of bickering around you, you don’t need no news carrying and no propaganda. They used that and tried to destroy Brother Marcus. But to my loving fans out there now, they know my heart, they listen to my words, they listen I’ve been steadfast in the Father’s works. I have not deviated with a song about woman this or woman your body good cuz I know that already and she knows that, you see what I’m saying. What we have to let the people know that they need to serve the Almighty, they need to unite amongst themselves and humanity, they need to stop grudging one another and be envious. So in my own little way Empress, I really rebelling against Babylon system here, it’s not just the Empress yuh know or a Brother who might have faltered or trespassed against InI because I have also trespassed in my own little way at times. So no one is perfect really. But we know that the sisters out there are farther away from their anciency so you have to preach like Peter and Paul just to get them to really even acknowledge what you are about, yuh know.
ou believe through your words and music, the message and the power of those who walked before you, your ancestors, is still present and being communicated?
Definitely because it is present in our minds as the truth. Our truth yuh know and then grow up and realize that Babylon has been telling him a lie. They’re not giving him the right history of his ancestry. What we are truly realizing it is the truth that give us fire here because a man do for long, for years, without acknowledging the truth and get caught up in Babylon some way and he did not even realize that his ancestors were killed here, blood was shed. People were taken from their families, captured all over from plantation to plantation and here we are today some frolicking, some drinking rum and right now some taunting. But, as I say, that fire with us. As the Gong would say, as King Marley say, (begins to sing) “There is a fire and it’s burning here within, I got the fire, fire and it’s burning here below”, (ends singing). Yeah mon. See, they could never put out this fire yuh know. Fire is real, the truth. Because it’s not only we feel the fire Empress. We know that amongst even Babylon system we have one or two people in there who know that the governments could do better for the poor people.
Understand, they know it. All these unnecessary money they are spending on all this on arms and all these things, this world could be such a paradise but the world now is not using the right sense. It’s building ships and tanks and build all these bombs and missiles so this is why the world is like this. And the man of God who comes of righteousness, he has to turn five loaves and two fishes into a, yuh know, multiply it proper because the children and the multitude need to be fed. And you see the wealth of the world is not being equally distributed so this is really our problem right now. Not only a black man, or yuh know, it’s not only a black man problem. It’s every one of us living on mother earth because the earth has been destroyed by GREED. We’ve gone into a thing you call spiritual WAR going on and all righteous people, righteous from caucasion race, righteous from black race, righteous from whatever righteous group, righteous from Indian, or Asiatic, righteous people from all different walks and sects of life to come forth and defend Jah Kingdom in this time, seen?
Right, right. You mentioned about spiritual hunger. Well I realize that the thirst for righteousness is what you see. We have a spiritual weakness out there. The thirst for righteousness. Because I’m saying when a race or a set of people start to unite among themselves and share their little blessing, this man work with that man and the farm for this day and tomorrow is his day and they share and they care for each other in the community, when we don’t have these kind of vibes, spiritual degradation is amongst humanity. Once they seek righteousness (pause), because Jah say only the righteous will exhault the nation. If we are not seeking, because I know in my own self I have a testimony of what righteousness can do, even good manners. So I’m saying there is a way which will lead us to salvation to our own souls, because this way is a way that leads to righteousness, leads away from negativeness and vindictiveness, it leads away from corruption. This road carries you to a narrow and winding path, like it carries you to a peak seen because the bible even give us about it, it say broad is the road that leads to destruction. So these roads come like the highways that man can cut and pull up with trucks and as simple as you can take it. If you look at it just as it is written you will get the fullness because these people loading up with their cargo and this and that, God knows what they’re carrying. It could be missiles and poison gas traveling along highways going on into cities which soon collide, o.k? But within our own knowing now we know that pathway to righteousness. You have to find a nice little track that leads to a quiet little place and carries you where waters are still and you can hear the voice of Jah within you because in every one of us the heart beats. Who is beating that heart? I wonder how many people stop and ask “who is beating this heart inside of me?” What causes it to beat”? Scientists may want to study and explain about the pulse but in my own knowledge all we can do is know that there is a higher supreme consciousness than our own little allotted consciousness that we have in the objectiveness of our lives. We are living within this temple. This temple have certain criteria or we have certain requirements which we have to feed it, which have to get elements from Mother Earth. If we are not careful you can put wrong elements in there or you can get elements which you have to go to some places to get these elements and you might end up losing the temple. Man will kill you. Or say, look for food to eat in desolate places. Man killing people for dumpling now a days.
How do we teach all this to our children?
Our children will learn from example. One of the quickest way children learn is how we relate to one another, how we talk to one another as elders, how we greet one another because they learn from that. When children see uncle and uncle or brother and brother meet and say daddy and uncle meet up and say “whaa happenin me brother, long time no see the I”. “A good draw herb so we can go burn a spliff.” (laughs). The youth learn that, the youths they learn from that and the energy that. You see that energy I’m speaking about Empress. This is it, there are two energies that rule the earth, you have positive energy and negative energy. Negative is the force of darkness now that try to engulf the youths. Like slack lyrics and all these things and beverages, some intoxicating beverages, and things like cigarettes and all those things. Hard drugs, o.k?
Now the positive energy now is good music, good word like the Bible, we have good word like speech of His Majesty that one can read. You have good music, you have good food. We’re talking about vegetable. I’m not talking about running down animals and the face on the poor animals taking away their temple, you understand? I’m talking about eating what Jah has given us from the natural habitat of the earth. I’m talking about good conduct and being upright in your way of living. Sharing what you have and don’t be selfish because that is one thing that bung up people. It is all this wealth that is causing the problem. This man want the oil because the oil will give him more factories and this man say he want the gold because him can take that gold and buy his way through so it’s power struggle going on. When the leaders now start to live upright and share and things now the families will be happy and mothers and fathers will be happy and the children will so be, will be so delighted because it a go fall into place. Once the head of the stream is clean, then the river will be clean. So you see Empress, live the live because the children live what they learn and they learn what they see.
Can you please describe what music means to you?
Music, as Brother Garnett (Silk) quite rightfully said, music is like the rod of Moses and we are, we are like Moses then and music is the rod, yuh know? He said, (begins to sing) “Music is the rod and we are Moses, leading our children to the promised land. Music is the voice of his brother Abraham”, (ends singing). Promising and comforting as we move along because I say there is no other way out. Right now the only thing we can use to educate the youth efficiently is the music cuz they’re not too quick to read now. But one can listen and we can teach them about Africa and feel more connected to Africa. It works like magic. I see what a song from Brother Bob Marley has done to me, Brother Dennis Brown and I know the power of music. Music is our life. Music is like the true memory of humanity really as we talk about memory because one can listen to a song and it can bring you right back to that day when you first heard that song or you first made that song. So music is our soul being expressed in notes and melodies.
Another beauty of music is you don’t even have to know the language to hear the meaning…
AHHHH, you can feel the vibration. The songs in the air beautiful sound because the bible say make a joyful noise on to the holy one of creation, seen?
How do you reconcile and come to terms with the message of fire burn and judgement with the message of the bible which teaches us not to judge and to love.
When you read the bible you see judgement in there too because the bible tells you that the Almighty did burn down Sodom yuh know and Jonah and some people were disobedient. So we are saying the bible gives us the truth and it gives us a way but it shows us also that the way, that the gift of life, the gift of the Father is eternal life but the ways of sins is death. So if one sins against the Father’s principles and laws, he must go face the judgement. Now at the same time, the judgement of the Almighty is just. Not like these people now who come to judge people and they themselves need to correct them life. For the bible said judge not, that ye might not be judged because we really and truly have to leave all judgement to the Almighty. If He want drown we have, He will decide on that. If He want burn we have, He will burn me. When one mountain collide and we have a volcano, one whole city cover, one will quake and the whole world shake. That is how dreadful my Father rule with thunder. The most we can do, we can rebuke our brother or sister still yuh know. The bible tells us that. But the bible say, for example if you see someone really going down the wrong road you have to say something, “You are going the wrong way me brother or me sister”. You have to say to your brother, “correct yourself.” But, don’t be too judgemental, like you tell a man, “say bwoi, if you eat chicken you can’t come to me yard”, and all them thing that, fire burn you out and all that. To me many of these brothers who burning out all these poor people who might be eating chicken used to eat oxtail and broad bean and all them thing dem. It’s gone deeper and gone into other things. But you see in my own way I’m not taking up for anyone. I’m saying let us spread a positive energy, let us spread words of encouragement, let us spread words of unity, let us spread words of history to the people that they can learn more about themselves and unite amongst humanity. We don’t need to get them cussing and more heated and confusion cuz they burn them out and burn down the neighbor house and all dem things, we don’t want that. To me, fire is necessary but fire without a control can be dangerous and, detrimental, is the word.
Who are some of the people who have influenced you other than our Creator?
Well I must be honest. My father. I remember my father so pleased, used to go around the community and yuh know to me is like a true example of my life coming out. My father loved guitar so much that he built one for himself and I started learning my preliminary years. That’s where I started learning about music and all them things, from my father’s guitar. So he has been like a mentor ever since and even when I see Brother Bob Marley with his guitar, I really with my heart automatically just have a passion for the King because I realize he has a love for people, love for music. And he go the extra mile, this man go the extra mile yuh know. Cuz some nuff people can sing and can hold a tune but they don’t have the love and the burning passion. When I see my father, cuz my father would debate bible passage for two days straight and a whole day then until later on he might be able to eat something. He catch alot of fight. But I wouldn’t go that far. Right now Empress I try to control my own consciousness and know that I must use wisdom and knowledge and truth to really establish myself properly. But most I must really give thanks also to the people who come out. And I have to give thanks to Brother Admiral Tibet. He’s a brother who I see the world don’t get the recognition he deserve but he is a brother who also has been steadfast and him no sing a whole heap of carelessness. And I love him for that because to me these are the cornerstones that really help us as youngsters come up and hold up the banner because nuff of these great Kings never bow.
Brother Burning Spear he never bow. I saw Brother Burning Spear on a roots video that we have. I watch it and tears come to my eyes. And from those years Brother Burning Soul has been a wailing soul calling mankind. No one remembers Marcus Garvey and all yuh know? So I know that this is the voice of God coming out and see sometime all them set up the tours and all them things. And you tour and tour and tour and you get tired and you go up on the same road, every year you are going out and some times the people get tired of you too. We don’t want that. We want the people to say it’s a spiritual thing and when they see we they take good care of us and glorify the Almighty cuz you never know what tomorrow bring. We don’t have the Gong with us, we don’t have Brother Dennis Brown with us and we don’t have Garnett Silk with us and these are great soldiers who come and bless us. And I know even one day right now the gods could send me with one of these great prophets. I would be happy with where I am sitting here today. But, the work is still on yuh know and we can’t stop, can’t stop, Jah know, can’t stop.
The role of women in music is disheartening when you see women used as sex objects in videos and as a way to sell music. I give thanks, as a woman, to artists like you who give recognition to the beauty of the female spirit.
Very important. I want to tell you something now Empress. Woman is so important in all aspects of life from advertisement to whatever, they are there. Woman is in every walk of life, you can check it out. So you see in some place them little men who claim say where some are trying to bring in sodomism and try to get rid of the Empress. They are in their little fantasies. Who bring them on the earth? It took a woman to bring them on the earth. So in all walks of life a woman is there and have to be there, o.k. In my own self now I know say that we can’t do without the Empress. Right now even in the industry you are setting up a little record thing, a little business, a local artist coming up, you want to sell a little record or a t-shirt, the Empress is the right person to deal with this. Because me as an artist, me just want to go out and sing and bless up people and utter the words because it is a blessing that I can use and I can utter to the people and strengthen them spiritually. But in terms of computer works and make sure letters are sent and all that, the Empress have great interest, you understand, she will deal with those things and set the business straight, yuh know? I tell you God truth. So even in me singing now we can’t go on the road and sing with pure man in me band, I’m sorry. No want no all man band. At least two women will be there. Two Empresses, yuh know?
Do you think in the future the voice of women will be represented more in reggae music?
I think the female should just come forward with strength. Because yuh know what is really tying up the Empresses is they get too easy led in vanity. Many of them can sing but as I said they rule with their heart so emotion take over them many times. But take this from me Empress, that when these Empresses rise in righteousness, when the daughters of Zion start walking with righteougness and not with wanton eyes mincing as they go, the Almighty will bless them ten fold. Me tell them really and truly cuz when you save a woman you save a nation, if you save one man it’s just a one man that. If he’s dead on the road, that nation dead out. If you save an Empress, she can bring a seed, or a seed can be planted and she can bring forward a new breed.
What is going on with your record label, Qabalah?
Yeah man we’re still cranking. Over the years, since this past year and a half, we have given VP an album and Jet Star an album. But we still on target with Jah Messenjah. Right now we are in agreement with EMI. We are going to license out an album which we are going to produce ourselves. We’ve started it and we are in the process of getting more musicians in the studio and just doing some great works. We still have the Qabalah youths. Babatunde, Milton Blake, Brother Peter Franz (sp), Empress Mikita, We want to work with those who… Princess Natural… who really want to do something with the music, who have a singing ability and want to use it. We want to be here as a (pause), even to see through many of these youth, let them know how to deal with interviews, approach stage and all these things. This is our little way of giving forward to the community what we have learned and gathered in terms of experience and knowledge and wealth. We share whatever we have, we try to work more on workshops and so on so we really are in the making. But you see, what I’ve come to find out now Empress it’s not an easy business yuh know as all they term it to be. It’s alot of run jostling, selling out going on, you understand. If you’re not careful they want to give us little nothing for our works. Because of the same selling out and the run jostling, you give a man a one tune and him license it out and before you know it he license it out with the bredren. If you’re not careful they can dampen your spirit because they don’t tell you about these things sometime, how they arrange it and how they package it, they want to use a certain type of picture of woman looking naked and all this so it’s not good. Once we can control everything it’s better. And this is what the Gong has done, Brother Robert Nester Marley, so we must continue in that same. If we just walk in that light, if we walk in the light of Christ, once we walk in the the footsteps of his Majesty, we can’t go wrong. So, I as a musician try to walk in the steps of the King and establish myself. Have a little printy. Make sure me have a little record thing going on for distribution. It might not be big but if it is even one box, a record we can ship for every month end. We have everything. These big companies them after you and they want your soul and they’re not so keen on seeing you strive to build your own things sometimes but we have to do it. Rastaman.
For the dates you have previously scheduled to perform, for instance Reggae on the River, you have been practicing and putting together a new band?
Yes, in your words now we have practicing going on inside there right round the clock and putting together a band. The band called Jah Messenjah. And we have food cooking in pot. We have some food cooking there and many times I don’t eat. Yeah man we making sure because you see what has happened we didn’t plan it, I didn’t plan it because I am a forgiving person. I forgive those who trespass against me that I know that I might be forgiven. But in my own way now I see here I just push foward, I’m not looking backward and these people are willing to work and see Mr. Forbes has all the papers all ready, all the papers gone though so we have work already getting through properly. And, we just working out the harmonies now and making sure we’re accustomed with the rhythms and so on and it’s just a matter of reforming and I give thanks for that.
Will Mikey General be with you?
Brother Mikey will be there definitely.
Thank you. Is there anything else you would like to say?
More or less I just want to say to my people, to my fans out there, that everything is alright. It’s just one of those things in families, every family goes through a little process sometime. So we just more strong and push forward nevertheless. God bless, peace and blessings. One Jah, One Aim, One Destiny. This is the Messenger saying… I Love You.