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Interview: Sara Lugo

Interview: Sara Lugo

Interview: Sara Lugo

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"We need to get together and work on ourselves and actually make a change in this world"


23 year old Sara Lugo grew up in the idyllic lakeside village of Weßling near Munich. Her Puerto Rican father and German mother encouraged her and her brothers in music and as a teen Sara was sang vocals for her brother’s band Jamaram – thus meeting her producer Umberto Echo.

Another friendship with local singer Jahcoustix helped develop her song writing craft and a 2009 tour with German star Ganjaman gave her a platform to break out nationwide.

In 2010 her journey became one of the most captivating stories of the newly relocated Rototom Sunsplash festival in Benicassim Spain, her remarkable voice charming the Jamaican deejay Chuck Fenda who took her from the small stage she was booked to the main stage on the penultimate day.

On May 6th she is due to drop her eagerly awaited debut long-player 'What About Love?' a summery reggae soul fusion that has created a buzz reverberating from Continental Europe to the Caribbean and beyond. Sara very kindly granted Angus Taylor one of her first interviews about the album, her eventful life, an all-important song concerning Teddy Bears and why her singing has a habit of opening doors…

Sara Lugo

When did you discover you had a singing voice?

I always sang, ever since my Mum always used to sing with us. She used to put us to sleep singing us songs. Then I used to listen to Kids Plays – these cassettes from the States – and I used to just love them. They had really good arrangements and really good singers on them, harmonies and different types of genres of good music so I was just stuck to that. I used to sit down and press rewind on a chorus or an adlib I really liked and hear it again and again. My Dad also listened to a lot of music – rock, reggae, all kinds of stuff. My Mum was more into classical music and I think that’s where the music comes from. Her family is very much into music. Originally classical music but then it switched over to all kinds of styles. I got into reggae through my brother Nathan.

Is it true you didn't like reggae when young?

(laughs) That’s not exactly true! Riddim magazine just came out and they wrote that and I was like, “Oh no! That’s not true that I didn’t really like it!” I didn’t hate it! It was just that when I was nine or ten, I was in this rebellious kind of phase so my brother used to turn up the reggae with his big sound system. All I had was my radio so all there was for me to do in a rebellious way was to turn it up. So that’s what I did for two months until I realized that it didn’t really do anything and I loved the music that came out of my brother’s room so much! There was one song that I kind of dug which was Macka B’s Squeeze Me Tight and at that time I could only catch the word “Teddy Bear” so kept knocking on my brother’s door and saying, “Nate? Can you play the Teddy Bear song again?” and he was like, “OK, I’ll play it but the song is called Squeeze Me Tight by Macka B!” (laughs)

Britney Spears had a big hype and all the girls in my class were going totally bananas about her. I felt like "There's got to be another way to do music. To do music and still be human and not so unreachable."

What was the first time that it got serious for you? Was it a particular concert or event?

I think it was when I was eleven and I realized I wanted to do music. Britney Spears had a big hype and all the girls in my class were going totally bananas about her and I never understood that. I just wondered what it is about her that makes people freak out about her so much. I figured it's just the music they love and she seems so unreachable but that's not true because we're all human. So I felt like "There's got to be another way to do music. To do music and still be human and not so unreachable.” Sara LugoI always wanted to travel so I figured "I'll just do music - that's what I love most anyway - and travel the world with music". Right now I haven't been travelling so far but we'll see!

Who was the biggest inspiration in your early career?

Definitely my producer Umberto Echo, who believed in me from the very beginning. Then there was Jahcoustix, a good friend of mine. We wrote my first songs together so he helped me with that. Jamaram my brother's band were a big influence on me because they gave me the opportunity to play at so many shows with them and get stage experience. They were also the first to let me sing in the studio on their first album and the following ones too. Oneness supported me by giving me a lot of riddims to voice or just play around with so they helped me grow musically too. I would say that is the music family that helped me get where I am now.

How did you meet Echo and start your partnership?

Echo produced most of my brother's Jamaram albums. When we went to the studio to do some backing vocals for the first album I got to work with him for the first time. Then he got me back in to do backing vocals for Headcornerstone, another very good local roots rock reggae band, and from that point on we got on really well. At some point he just came out with "Sara. I want to do an album with you. I know I'm not going to be the only one but I want to be the first one". I felt really touched and emotional, "Wow! You want to do an album with me? OK!" but it wasn't the time then so we took our time and continued working. We'd produce stuff together where he played me what he'd already done in the studio and I'd suggest, "Maybe change some of the brass section here" or "Take some elements out and put them somewhere else". We'd just work out the music and see what happened and what it turned out to be - and, now, you can hear it!

Umberto Echo said "Sara. I want to do an album with you. I know I'm not going to be the only one but I want to be the first one"

How did working on the album differ from working on your EP?

It was different because towards the end it kind of got serious. It's my debut album and you want it to be really good so I kind of stressed myself out a bit - I guess everyone does eventually. It's exciting. It's going to be the real thing whereas with the EP it wasn't anything serious. Working on the album was really nice and interesting too because we went to a really nice studio and had guest musicians coming in and worked out stuff and it was a great time. But at the end it was a bit more stressy than the EP because with the EP we didn't have any pressure at all. We just did it and put out the EP. With the album we set a date and were like, "We've got to finish up now!" so that's what we did.

Can stress and tension in the studio yield good results?

It can but it depends on the situation. Sometimes it can help but sometimes great songs happen if you do things without any pressure at all.

There is new and familiar material on the album. How did you decide which songs to include, which to cut out, and which to rework?

Sara Lugo - What About LoveWhen we started I made a list of about 24 songs that were options for the album. Then we went through the songs and checked which ones were the best, which ones we felt and also what kinds of styles we wanted. Because I don't only do reggae I definitely wanted some other songs on there. I had enough songs to make a modern roots reggae album but I also like the other side from that and, because it's hard to sell cds now, I definitely wanted a cross over thing that would work in different genres. So I decided to put six reggae tunes on that I liked the most and the other songs we did and tried to blend those different styles in a way that would still fit the whole thing.

Some people have been surprised by how much soul there is on the album but soul is very close to reggae and has been since the beginning. Are people too obsessed with genres and categories? Is it a more fluid thing for you? 

Totally! It's a very fluid thing and it's getting more and more regular for all the people out there too. The world is starting to fuse up because the 'net mixes up all kinds of cultures and everything is being mixed nowadays so it's more expected now that you mix different types of genres. And it works because it delivers the message pretty well I believe because if you do music that's my goal. I want to touch the people's hearts. I want to touch their hearts and souls and make them feel it and then listen to the lyrics if they're open to it and maybe think about some of these things and eventually make a change. For me right now the situation in the world is there's so much happening and everybody needs to do something. And there's so little you can do that really does make a change so I do what I can and I try to make the people feel more intense and then eventually I can help from my side.

Because it's hard to sell cds now, I definitely wanted a cross over thing that would work in different genres

Will your next album go further lyrically in trying to change people?

It's hard to say because music just kind of happens like that. I'm not the type of person to sit down and say, "OK, now I'm going to write a song about a flood" or something dramatic that may have happened. I get inspired by a riddim or by an idea or a thought that just appears and then I write. It's a spur of the moment thing. So I cannot tell you what's going to be on the next album! It's going to be from the heart and capturing moments but I can't tell you what it's going to be about!

Let's talk about Rototom 2010, which is where I first saw you perform. On the Monday you played on small stage then suddenly you had Ginjah up there, and then on the Friday Chuck Fenda took you to main stage! Your journey and the festival's journey to its new location felt linked somehow. What happened?

That's really interesting. I never thought about it like that. What happened was actually just music, I guess. I met Ginjah a couple of weeks before Rototom when he was in Germany. I showed him some riddims and he was really feeling it and then we met again at Rototom. I just asked him to come on stage because I was on the General Key riddim I believe and he has a song on it as well. So he came up and did the song and people felt it and it was a really good vibes. So that was just music on the spot really.

Sara Lugo and Chuck Fender at Rototom 2010

But that was just the start...

The thing with Chuck Fenda was through friends of mine who have this stand where they sell flags and hats and Rasta articles. Chuck Fenda's manager was there and the guys from the stand put on my cd and the guy kind of liked it and said, "Let's meet again at the stand tomorrow". So I went there again and he was there and Chuck turned to me and said, "If I asked you on stage would you come and sing with me?" We arranged he was going to get me on stage on the Dreams riddim. But then when he was on stage he stopped the band and started doing a big speech saying "Yeah, I met this singer from Germany and she came all the way here..." telling a big story and the band didn't play anything! So I asked him, "Chuck, what’s the plan? I thought we would do something on a riddim?" and he went, "Just sing some of your songs and the band will know when to come in!" So I started singing What Happened but I knew that the chords are kind of tricky so I thought, "Before the band plays something that doesn't fit I'll show them how to play the chords so they know and we can vibe on it". So that's what we did and it was this huge show effect that wasn't even intended!

This isn't an easy question to answer but I'd like to hear you try! It sounds like you sing and stuff just happens. What is it about your voice that crosses borders and opens doors like that?

Good question. It's hard for me to know because I hear myself every day so my voice is just my voice and I can't really tell how people hear it from outside. I guess what makes things happen is I'm a good socialiser. I'm a vibes person is the way I'd describe it. I love people and I'm very interested in how they think and how they act and how they do things. The minds of people interest me a lot so I just meet people and talk to them and stuff just happens!

The minds of people interest me a lot so I just meet people and talk to them and stuff just happens!

Protoje - who is really big right now - was talking about how much he was feeling your album snippet. How does it feel to be reaching such key people in Jamaica and could a Don Corleon album be on the cards one day?

That really made me happy too because when I found Protoje's music I was totally flashed. Whenever I find music that really touches me and is so good that it keeps flashing you I get really happy about that. I was totally blown away and I needed to contact him so I added him on Facebook and he has so many friends so I thought I probably won't be accepted. But then he did and I just wrote him a comment and sent him some love and respect and then he wrote back! So I sent him the snippet and said that if we could do something together that would be really nice! So then next time I was online Protoje had posted the video on his page saying he was really feeling this lady or something! I was like "Wow!" But we'll see what happens as he didn't write back yet.

What are your hopes for the future?

To reach as many people as possible. To really touch their souls in a way that they haven't been touched in a long time. To make them feel in a stronger way. To make them understand that we need to get together and work on ourselves and actually make a change in this world. We can only do that if we work together and are honest with ourselves and start to listen to our emotions again. I hope that lots of people realize that, can learn it, or accept it - and find it through the music.

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Read comments (1)

Posted by ROBERTO NILO on 12.28.2015
SARA LUGO will become one of the biggest reggaematic pioneers the world will ever see

Comments actually desactivated due to too much spams

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