In Conversation with Luwe Da Humble Lion
Lunga Wela, better known as Luwe Da Lion is a reggae artist born and raised in KwaZulu Natal. He started writing and performing back in 2004 and made a name for himself in the hip hop and RnB circuit where he gained a staunch fan base; but his true calling came in 2012 when he started penning Reggae songs. He released two reggae projects; ‘Journey to Zion’ in 2013 followed by ‘Hunting Season‘ in 2014. He was drawn to Reggae as he felt that it was more conscious and it provided a perfect outlet for him to spread positive messages to his peers. Then Thando Riddim – the first riddim out of Durban and the first Reggae Riddim that he voiced, produced by Roots and Kulture Entertainment – came out in 2017. This is where Luwe brought out the heat and left an indelible impression as he waxes lyrically about Reggae Music on the track titled Play, and that made the reggae community to stand up and take a listen. A year later he was featured alongside Black Dillinger, Nkulee Dube, Skeleton Blazer, Don Franco Tafari and Jah Kongo on the follow up Riddim called Live & Joy produced by same Roots and Kulture. Luwe delivered a classic tune called Live and Joy and another one on the same riddim, collaborating with Durban based DJ Red Eye on a track called I see them Stray.
He was now being recognized beyond the borders of Durban and worked with Johannesburg based producer Rebel Shumba on a track called Open Up My Eyes. He was also featured on the MzansiReggae 3The Hard Way Compilation Mix: Young Lions a showcase of Mzansi’s rising stars. It is the track Marijuana that was featured on the MzansiReggae Ganja Mix hosted by LNT that really made a strong impression on the massive and peers alike and raised his popularity a notch higher. He continued to work closely with Roots and Kulture and released another classic tune with them called Where is the Love and it firmly cemented him as one of the emerging artists to look out for. Throughout this period he also kept his hip hop supporters and continued to drop hip hop and RnB singles that kept him in rotation in hip hop circles.
The year 2020 is looking fruitful and promising for the young lion. He is currently working on a new project titled ‘Reason’ which will boast 12 songs under his new management Lion Sound Music. He describes the new project as: “not 100% Roots sound, it has a lot of dancehall elements cause we are trying to catch the youth so that they don’t veer off too much because they do veer off if we get too deep with our sound”. The first single off ‘Reason’ called ‘Born Champion’ is already on rotation at some of the radio stations in KZN.
MzansiReggae caught up with the soft-spoken crooner at the skateboard park just adjacent to the Amphitheater where the Bob Marley One Love Festival had taken place the night before. The Amphitheater was spotless with no trace of previous night’s activities; the only reminiscent left was a lonesome marquee that was being dismantled. Luwe and I start chit chatting about last night’s happenings and he tells me why he chose to forsake Hip Hop and went into Reggae and why he chose the conscious roots.
Why did you leave Hip Hop for Reggae?
I felt that it was too conscious (Reggae) and I wanted to be that conscious on a mellow type of instrumental like roots, reggae is more conscious than Hip hop because I feel like Hip Hop is more of pointing fingers and prove points and stuff like that but I wanted to speak to the people so I chose reggae because that’s one true music, and Hip Hop is more of Rhythm and Poetry.
Where does your consciousness come from?
I think it’s in my blood, I was born a very quiet person and I like observing things that happen around me and I like to speak about those things because most of those things are things that people don’t talk about. And nowadays most people use music for fun, to make people dance and nothing else but my aim is to educate. I’m more for edutainment than entertainment.
You are still young you could have gone for the commercial sound than the conscious roots sound
True, you see, even if I’m young at the end of the day you still need someone my age to talk to the youth because if we are all the same page and we all listen to Qhom music and there’s no one with a voice of reason then there won’t be an adult who can preach anything to us IF we can’t teach one another. I know I’m part of the youth, so whatever I speak to the youth they might listen.
So far are you happy with your progress as Luwe the musician?
I’m happy, but we are facing too much challenges as reggae artists and we can’t hide the fact that it looks like South African music industry is not ready for what we are bringing, and we don’t know for how long this will continue for but so far I can see there are a lot of people appreciating the way I write music but I’m more afraid of the media and what they are doing, yes you can win the masses but will they (media) be eventually conquered, will we be heard on radios, be seen on the TV screens but progress is going well, we are growing and the crowd is getting bigger and I wish reggae music can become very popular in eThekwini and I’m fighting for that and not just eThekwini but the whole of South Africa to be recognised like any other genre.
Reggae is not something new here in South Africa we have legends like Carlos Djedje, Lucky Dube who used to be play listed, what do you think is the problem, what went wrong?
I can’t say what happened because I don’t know what really happened and a lot of people believe that reggae music disappeared with Lucky Dube (RIP) I don’t know what that means but people see it like that right now it’s like there is no artist or someone who can do whatever that was done that time, now it looks like us who are here we don’t exist anymore so I don’t know how it got to this stage.
Who is that one artist or artists that you would love to collaborate with, locally or internationally?
Internationally, I’m looking at someone who is not a reggae artist. I’ve been fighting to get him close; his name is John Legend, we’ve been fighting, I know he is too far from my league but we hope that anything can happen anytime. We have beautiful music; we have nothing to lose. We will give him an offer when the time is right and await his response. Locally, they are too many especially the reggae artists, there’s Jeremiah Fyah Ises, Botanist, Momo Dread, Black Dillinger and Sister Nkulee Dube, I’d love a feature with her but all in good time.
Why John Legend?
From when I started singing for me to realise that I can sing I compared myself to him. I used to listen to him a lot, I loved his work, his style, his personality and I loved everything about him, so I took my direction from him on how should one do their music. I looked up to him a lot. Also, Robert Kelly if he wasn’t embroiled in scandals maybe we would have tried him also. If ever I was not doing reggae, I think I would have ventured into Jazz music.
Reggae in Durban, what are your thoughts because you don’t venture out to other provinces a lot?
True, I survive here in Durban, we do have artists most of them are good but I don’t know what is lacking maybe its marketing, we have artists who are hardworking. Even bands, I believe most of them don’t have music to give to the public but when they step on stage you can see that they are really good but you can’t find their music on hard copies.
Let me not say Johannesburg because the country has other provinces, why are you not reaching that far, now this is for Luwe?
My wish has always been to do a road tour, starting with Kwazulu Natal, Johannesburg, and ending in Cape Town but my problem was on how to start moving, you know the struggle in the reggae industry, even if you wish for something and to reach out there’s always that question of funding so you can’t travel from point A to point B, even if you can reach point B how do you survive, where do you sleep, so that has been the challenge in the past years but this time around things are looking up there are people who are willing to help out to speed up things. 2020 going forward I will be available to all my fans across the country.
Is that a promise because you have fans and other people who don’t know you but know your music?
I think from June because the project will be available by then so that’s when I’ll be able to distribute it myself to the people because we believe in self-distribution instead of concentrating too much on social media cause a lot of people don’t have smart phones to download on iTunes and so forth, so for them to get our music we need to take it to them and for them to also believe that here is this person, he is human just like me cause people hear our music and they think that we are untouchable and they put us on pedestals and think we are not like them, truth is we are just like them.
Talking about availability, we leave in a very digital world, what do you are the disadvantages of selling your music online because people can download, they can stream; I can stream your song for 30sec and move on, I don’t have to buy it
Technology these days, like those streaming platforms do pay off cause you can push a lot of work in a short space of time, in just a few days’ time you can distribute to almost half of the country, so it is easier to use social sites than to take it to the people, that takes time but when you go to people and they see you it won’t be easy for them to forget about you, also people also want to know how you handle yourself as an artist, it can happen that you are an artist who sings about being righteous but your behaviour says otherwise and you can’t live comfortably with other people. I don’t know how to measure it, it pays to use socials but at the end people need to see you face to face, and they need to know what it that they are buying and supporting is.
Also the online services have a lot of followers and people are always online but I feel like we are missing a point, our Mothers don’t know anything about phones, our fathers too, and these things just came ‘yesterday’ so you can only reach the youth on socials, what about the older generation because when we do music I’m certain we don’t only do it for the youth but we use music for everyone, so for the music to reach everyone we have to use every side cause you can find the youth anywhere. So, I say let’s go more to the people than socials, you even find on socials you can push your music but you won’t even get profit but just creating links for people to have your music but at the end of the day your kids go hungry.
The Bob Marley One Love Fest in Durban, what are your thoughts? When did you start performing on it?
This year was my forth time if I’m not mistaken, since I started I’ve have never missed it and one is gaining the experience of performing on big stages, also It’s no longer the same Bob Marley One Love Fest that one started with, it has grown and one now feels like a professional artist, which we are professional artists. Everything went well.
How did it come about that you are on the line up?
First year I was never in the line-up, I just rocked up for the Fest and it was still in that small venue, luckily I was working closely with people who have been working in the industry for some time, and they managed to find a slot for me just to showcase myself and I did my thing and there were people who were already familiar with my music but have never seen me perform cause I have never been given that opportunity to perform in front of a lot people, so I did one song, two song just to showcase my music and after the performance they required my profiles and social media linksand I’ve been booked ever since.
How important is it for you to get on that stage and honour the Legend himself?
As a reggae artist I feel it is important to me, it’s the only big festival that we have in KZN. I always wish that every month is February because we don’t always get such Festivals around here and I wish it can happen often not only in February. Performing here means I’m growing as an artist, to be given an opportunity to get on that stage year after year it means there is a level of professionalism that people are noticing, it means success also. Bob Marley is like roots under the tree especially for us artists who are only starting now, for us to see what is it that we are required to do we look upon his music a lot, he is an icon in such a way that if you do reggae music and you are not into his music then it means you are not supposed to be a reggae artist and I’m not saying there aren’t any other artists that we look up to but Bob Marley’s music in international, his music is able to touch Rastas and Non Rastas even young kids who knows nothing can sing his songs. He is like roots under the tree
You did say if you were not a reggae singer you would sing Jazz, so if you were not a singer what profession would you be in?
I don’t know maybe the universe just aligned for me, most of my works are in the arts, cause if I’m not doing music, I do photography, I have a certificate in Film making so If I didn’t get a chance to do music I’d be doing film making.
So, you are not practicing photography and film making?
I used to, up until my music career got serious in such a way that I couldn’t mix the two, I would be needed for music and find that I’m also needed for films so the schedules were not working out. So one had to take a break and it was film making. I have two locals’ films that I shot and edited they are distributed by guys who sells on the street, so far, my experience ended there but I’ve yet to use it on any video shoots because I love film making and writing scripts.
Why don’t you have any music videos for your music?
No, I haven’t shot any, I’ve never seen the need for one before, only seeing the need for one now (Why?) because I was hiding from people. I didn’t want people to know more about me but only my music. I didn’t think it was necessary for them to know me, but seeing the response I think a lot of people love my music and wish to see me, also I have a new team that I’m working with so everything is on point.
Why didn’t you want people to see you! Are you shy? You are an artist why wouldn’t you want people to see you?
We started on the wrong foot where my brothers wanted to use music to get fame and I wanted to pass a message, I didn’t want people to know me more than they know my music, and when time went on people would have known who it is that is passing that message. My aim was to push the message more than the image. It wasn’t because I was shy but felt that sometimes we use wrong things to get wrong things.
Why is fame not important to you?
I believe if people think that you are famous, they start looking at you in a different light and think you don’t deserve to mingle with them and you are better than them, so I think equality is important. I don’t want when I’m walking with you, you must feel like you are walking with someone who’s above you, some people I meet on the streets do things that I can’t stand like kneeling in front of me and telling me that they love my music, I think The Majesty is the only person that one needs to kneel down for and also you can’t stop people from doing that but fame makes people do things that I wouldn’t like them happening to me, I’m not The Majesty I’m just a human being like them.
Yes, you are human but they don’t like you per se they just love your music
but their acceptance of me is beyond my powers it’s not normal to me, it’s like they are overpraising me and I see myself as a normal guy. It scares me, I don’t want people to shake when I enter a room and don’t know what to do with themselves. I’m not that type of a person I want us to treat each other equally. I want to get of stage and chill with people and have a good time.
See the need for a music video, where people will see you and get enough of you
Then it happens that you meet someone in a taxi who has never seen you before but saw your music video then they will make a fuss the whole way until you reach your destination , it will be a mess so that’s what I was trying to avoid.
It’s a given it is going to happen, it is happening, how do you deal with it?
Some I have to run away from because like I said some even kneel down in front of me I do not like that, a few days ago someone asked me for a photograph, (Laughs) I don’t even know how to do an autograph, I have never done it before I didn’t know where to start. I never thought there would be a day where someone asks me for an autograph, and I don’t see the need for it. I do hang out with some of them and some have actually accepted that I am that kind of a person who doesn’t like to fussed over.
Lo and behold!Just as I suggest we take a 5min break, we are made aware of the commotion that was happening behind us, the famous Rapper Nasty C was shooting what seemed like a music video, we turn around and have a good laugh at the coincidence of that happening while we are having a chat about fame and Luwe continues
You see what I was saying, every eyes are focused on this guy, and it would bedifficult for me to have so many eyes looking at you as if you have the world in your arms, looking at his demeanour now he appears comfortable but I wouldn’t be that comfortable
He is shooting a music video I presume, if you had to shoot a music video, let’s say here, how would you go about it, or you will choose to shoot it in the house with just you and the camera person (laughs)
(Laughs) No its work at the end of the day and I’m not alone I have a team that I work with and if they say I have to do a video I will have to do it but at the end of the day I’d be having Goosebumps.
Ultimate festival? Which stage do you wish to see Luwe Da Lion Perform on?
These days ‘fills ups’ are the inthing and I would really love to have one at one of the stadiums around here in KZN Like Moses Mabhida stadium, then my dream would be fulfilled, maybe with just me alone or with one or two acts.
Who would you want as your supporting act(s)?
The Meditators and Jeremiah Fyah Ises, with those two I think I would have a great show and internationally it would someone I look up to and always studying his work; Chronixx, If I can have a one man show with him one day then I’ll know that I worked hard. The Meditators; I enjoy their music,I grew up listening to their music even before I became Rasta and Fyah Ises, I’ve been trying to follow his music and haven’t found all of it but the one I have, I really enjoy it and I am impressed.