Lengualerta – tongue on alert!
Lengualerta is one of the most interesting and influencial reggae-singers from Mexico. Far away from delivering cliches by quoting general issues that reggae has been repeating over and over for decades. He is critical, has a unique voice and definetly deliveres intelligent statements about the condition of the world at this point and the situation in Mexico in general. Irie Ites.de has asked him questions to find out about his background, political and social perspectives and, of course, about his music….
Last year you have been touring Europe for about three months. You have played at different clubs and festivals. Was there an event, that you’ve really liked most or had a special experience at?
Well, I gotta say is hard for me to pick up just one special gig after playing so many nice shows… but definitely one of the best ones was at Lübeck´s Maifest… the energy and feedback with the people was great… I love those kind of small festivals where you can see the whole family together having fun. Also playing at the Fusion alongside Illbilly Hitec and Dubmatix was big thing… I felt like dreaming for 2 days in that place.
Are the crowds visiting reggae-events in Europe different to the ones in Mexico?
I would say basically not… I mean, people who like reggae music usually understand or care about the message of the lyrics, which for me is the most important thing of this culture. So it doesn´t matter if you come from Latin America, Jamaica or Europe… I mean, even if you don´t understand the language, usually the message is based on equality, respect, freedom, one love… and for me that´s what gathers the people together. And of course, reggae music can put almost everybody in trance, and humans everywhere like to dance!
How would you describe the reggae scene in Mexico. Is it a unity thing or are there different groups and styles active that don’t really have contact?
The reggae scene in Mexico is big… at least compared with other countries I have been visiting… I mean, it is not mainstream, but it is big. First mexican reggae bands appeared more than 30 years ago, so we can say there´s a legacy…
So as I said, there´s a reggae scene, but inside of it there´s a dub scene, a sound system scene, a dancehall scene and a roots scene… There´s some parts of Mexico City where people are more used to roots, or to dub, etc. For me, the scene which is getting stronger nowadays is the dub one… Every month artists from all over the world are coming to perform here, from Mad Professor to Vibronics , from O.B.F. to Zion Train… and also there´s more and more dub projects made in México rising up, such as Bungalo Dub, Unidub Estación, Tor.Ma in Dub, etc..
What do you like most about performing live?
Definitely the contact with the people, the feedback of energy and vibes between me and them and vice versa… for me that communion is sacred.
I have noticed that some of the riddims you use for your musical output come from Germany. I have heard riddims by Seeed or Ganjaman for example. What is the connection?
That´s right! I got a connection with Germany that started more than a decade ago… At that time I was invited as guest singer with a mexican band called Tijuana No to a two month tour in Europe, and most of our gigs where in Germany. There I met great people who are still my friends until today, and they introduce me to german reggae, they showed me Gentleman, Seeed, Ganjaman, etc..
Then a couple of years later I came back to Germany, where I met two new friends -both singjays- who introduce me this time into sound system culture, and I stayed for 3 months hanging around with them, singing with different sounds in parties, shows and festivals. After that I went back to Mexico and started singing over the riddims they shared with me, and that´s where Lengualerta actually started.
In your videos and your music you often deliver a leftwing perspective on society. What are the biggest injustices you see in the world and the Mexico of today?
More than a leftwing perspective, I try to remind people that we all are humans, and we all have same necessities to live in peace with dignity… and we all want to love and be loved, right?
So for me is more a question of humanity, beyond this or that ideology… Biggest injustices, in my opinion is the lack of equality between the so called First World countries and the Third World ones, based on the colonization, and exploitation, nowadays called globalization, capitalism… Where the First World lives with luxury and comfort because of the Third World living in poverty, even if these lands are the most rich and fertile. Corruption, crime, wars and dispossession of the land in the name of progress are just some of the tools that the owners of the banks and transnational corporations are using to impose its economic model. So, back to your question, capitalism is the biggest injustice in the world of today, but which causes and what keeps it alive it is inside of every human being: the ego… The idea of being more important and superior to the others, of being separated and deserving more than the rest.
Other Artists from Mexico, like Panteón Rococó, are political active with different projects next to making music. Is there something similar with your approach to activism?
I try to be useful and helpful for the people who are doing something to make a change on this society. In Mexico there´s a lot of shit happening, but at the same time, there´s a lot of organizations and people working hard to change things. So we play often in solidarity parties to collect some money to support their projects, or at demonstrations to amplify the attention of the people on certain situations, or talking about those issues on the stage and in interviews, or even creating songs and music videos to spread the message as far as possible.
Gran OM, a good friend of yours, has released a video called „Protesta“ with several artists from your country. There are more questions connected to this.
First of all I would like to know, what you admire most about Gran OM’s work, since he is doing your album covers, posters etc. most of the time?
Well, most of all, I admire him as human being, he really cares about what´s going on with the people around… Not just doing art inspired by them, but really taking care and making actions… In that sense I can say he is one of the most active, congruent and intelligent guys I´ve ever met. He is always pushing me to go forward, he is a big support in my career, but also in my personal life.
Could you describe the message of „Protesta“ briefly to non-spanish-speaking people?
The song basically talks about the right of rising up our voices, to protest, to go out on the streets and demonstrate. It´s a claim for justice and freedom in a country where nowadays the activists are treated and showed like criminals.
The people involved in this project are from different genres of music. With all these different inputs – is this a project one of a n existing, active community or were the artists involved gathered just for this one project?
Gran Om – director and producer – got the idea of inviting all these artists to create this song and music video. This was the starting of “Speech & Music Video”, a project where music and image is involved with social movements, to create more awareness on specific issues, such as the kidnapping of the 43 students of Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, for example.
The artists (singers, MC´s, music producers, etc.) who were invited to be part of this project are the ones you will meet on the demonstrations, or in the soli-parties… and are concerned about saying something in their lyrics, or doing something with their art.
Your song „For Those“ really impresses people around the world, especially in combination with the outstanding emotional Video by Gran OM. It seems, that the song became a hymn for people protesting against the murder of the 43 students in Mexico. Are there any news on the whereabout of the students?
Not really… The official media rarely speak about them in these days and the government and authorities are just pretending they are doing something to find them. The main thing here is that there´s not clear and enough evidence to prove that the students are actually dead… There´s just theories of what happened that night, but there´s not real evidence at all… They just found a tooth of one of the students, and that´s their whole evidence to say that they are all dead, murdered by a drug cartel… but the witnesses said, that last time the students where alive, they where in the hands of the Mexican army. So, that´s what we know till now, and that´s why the parents of these students are still fighting to find them, or at least to find the truth.
Coming back to your music in general: Are there artists that you would consider as mentors or big inspiration for you?
Of course, a lot of them! But I will tell you my top 10, haha! Not in specific order: Luis Güereña -R.I.P.- (ex-vocalist, percussionist and frontman of Tijuana No), Fela Kuti, Manu Chao, Lauryn Hill, Bob Marley, Ana Tijoux, Fermin Muguruza, Arrested Development, Violeta Parra & Ojos de Brujo. All of them have something in common: beyond the genders, they use their music as a tool to create awareness about different topics, such as human rights, justice, politics, social movements or global awakening.
If you could pick one living or dead artist for a combination tune, who would you pick?
Wow! that´s a hard one… a really hard actually! Just one uh?… Right now I will say Ana Tijoux, from Chile… one of my favorite rappers ever.
I really like your cooperation with Sista Freedom on „Tengo La Fe“. Sista Freedom has a great voice and definetly something to tell. What do you like personally about her style and – not knowing all of your musical output – have there been or will there be more combination tunes with her?
Well, as you just said, she got a great voice, very flexible and with a special color… but maybe what I most like about her artistic talents is her ability to freestyle… on stage and out of stage, she is really good at it, and very funny! For sure we are gonna keep on working together.
We have met in Berlin in late july 2014 and recorded the Berlin Sessions together with Aldubb, Illbilly Hitec and Longfingah from Berlin and Dubmatix from Canada in one single day. Nothing was done before that meeting – no music prepared, no lyrics written. What was most challenging/interesting for you in that experience?
Actually everything! I mean, it was amazing how at the end of the day we got two big tunes ready. I must admit that for me it was a lot of pressure to finish some nice lyrics of two songs and also record it right there, totally unrehearsed and in presence of those great producers, musicians and another singer… It was a big challenge to be on the same level of all of them, and with the time running so fast. But the flowing of us all was really magic… each one of us was focused on our own thing, but at the same time really spontaneous and open to cooperate with the rest. It was a great experience!
Your actual album is called „Aurora“. Is there a way for people here in Europe to get a physical copy of that album?
Actually yes! German label Echo Beach is gonna release it at the end of february 2016, so I´m gonna be touring around Europe between march and april to promote it.
Are there any other projects in the pipeline right now?
Yes, I´m preparing “A Viva Voz!” – an EP alongside a dub project from Prague called Shakk-Attack- which is almost ready… we plan to release it this year. And I´m also working in three music videos with Gran OM: one is from this EP with Shakk-Attack, the other is the last single from my album “Aurora” called “De Vuelta a Casa”, produced by Twilight Circus, and the last one is a cooperation between Ganjaman, Illbilly Hitec, Gran Om and me. A song about the german weapon maffia which is selling guns to Mexico, where the violence is getting extreme… Also I´m preparing my european tour and starting to work in my next album… so yes! A lot of things to do!
Interview: Karsten Frehe