2013 has been a big year for Luciano. His highly respected imprint, Cadenza celebrates a decade of operation with a series of events all over Europe. Then there’s his wildly successful Vagabundos nights which launch a fresh season in Ibiza at Bomba this year. Famous for magical, mind-altering sets that combine sun-drenched Latino rhythms, forward-thinking techno and raw house grooves, Luciano is one of the world’s most revered DJs and for all of the above reasons he holds a coveted position in dance music.
In spite of his punishing DJ schedule he managed to find the time to visit South Africa earlier this year to present a series of workshops as ambassador for Bridges for Music – an NGO founded by industry veteran Valentino Barrioseta which aims to uplift underprivileged communities through music. This month Luciano will join other ambassadors Richie Hawtin and Skrillex at Sonar in Barcelona to discuss his involvement.
Heather Mennell stole some time from Luciano to talk about his own tough background, “the magnitude of music” and his impressions of South African music.
Luciano is a self-made man. Born to a Chilean mother and Swiss father he spent part of his childhood in Europe before moving to Chile when his parents split up.
Tell me about growing up in Santiago... “I grew up in a tough neighbourhood and they were very tough times. But at the same time – it was such a good time. Of course there was a big culture shock – because there is a big difference between Europe and South America. But that background gave me everything. All the tools that I needed to go through life and to stay focussed. I learned how to fight for I wanted in life.”
Would you say that music helped you find a better life? “Music always protected me. Music was always something that helped me out in my life – in every moment. From the very beginning I had one guitar and I was going on the buses, asking for money. I was playing an instrument then. Music always protected me and brought me to the right harbour in my life. There’s a form of intelligence in music which is related to emotions. It touches every human. You don’t need any background influences. Any person who has emotion is able to express something – through poetry, or painting, music or photography. This is one of the messages I want to share – music is not necessarily something that could cure you or save your life – but it will always give you the ability to express yourself.”
In the workshops you urged people to be true to themselves and play from their hearts – be honest and brave. Would you say this is your philosophy as a DJ and artist? “This is always something that I try to do. Over the years I felt as though I was doing something truthful and music gave me a way to express myself. But over time I realised that music also makes other people happy – and this is very important. Music is quite unique in this way so this has become one of my missions - it’s very important to remember that making people happy is part of what you do as a musician.”
How did you become involved with Bridges for Music? “I have known Valentino for a really long time – we’ve worked together and become close friends. Of course I was really interested because I’ve always been interested in bringing light to people – not helping people – more helping people realise things. You might think that being in South Africa is so far away and everything is so difficult to access – that it’s almost impossible. This is the magnitude of music - if you’re talented, then frontiers are small and everything is accessible - and that’s why Bridges For Music was important to show that it’s accessible to everybody. If you’re be focussed and concentrate and work at it with all your heart – you can to make it happen. There are no rules for that.”
I think that idea really came through in the workshop – the idea that hard work and passion surmount barriers.. “I agree. When I was back in Chile everything was so hard - even to get one record to play it was almost impossible. We’d see these DJs come and play in Chile – a country that was so far away. I used to think becoming involved was almost impossible because their world didn’t seem accessible. But if I think about it, it was only about making the right thing at the right moment and sharing as much as you could. If someone was coming I would bring my CDs – I was making music with almost nothing but I would share it and create my own little network – and it just happened! Don’t forget that if you make a good track.. music travels. Music travels alone and it goes all over the world - and the fact is that you can do it from anywhere."
Technology has enabled us to share music and access music on a whole level and lot of your lecture was focussed on harnessing the power of technology and use it to your advantage. “Yes. Back in the day none of this technology existed –but we were still making it travel. Now it’s so easy – but at the same time it’s not easy at all. There are many more people doing it and the possibilities are infinite. Technology has made it more confusing because there is so much more choice and competition. Buts there’s always a way if you believe strongly enough in what you’re doing - you can make music travel anywhere and get heard in the right way.”
What was your impression of South Africa? “It was a very powerful experience to come and truly communicate with people. I always feel that the best way for me to do this is through music. I have to say that I was extremely surprised and overwhelmed by the quality of South African music – usually the music you’ll hear on the radio is just noise - but your pop stars are deep house artists! I’ve never seen this anywhere else in the world! When I heard Black Coffee play in Soweto – he was incredible. Beautiful music - the depth, soul and rhythmical structure is all related to African music – and it’s great.”
“I left extremely surprised in a good way and I’m looking forward to doing something more – I would love to bring Zakes Bantwini and Vinni da Vinci to come and play in Ibiza. I loved their music.”
What’s next? “I have been rebuilding the studio this year so I am really looking forward to a fresh start.”
Join Luciano and other Bridges For Music ambassadors this year at Sonar Friday 14 June 4pm for a special presentation about the project so far and the future plans.
Listen to Luciano on Pulse Radio