FOR Australian slam poet Luke Haralampou, aka Luka Lesson, becoming involved in the art of the spoken word marked a defining moment in his life and has moulded his character.
The spoken word and hip hop artist, and slam poet champion, has been touring the world sharing his skills and craft. He docks in Durban this week, where he will be based at the Bat Centre.
With 11 Writers’ Festivals, seven years of workshop exper- ience and almost 10 years of writing behind him, Luka has written commissions and performed for the likes of The Nuyorican Poets Cafe (in New York), The National Gallery of Victoria, Trinity International Hip-hop Festival, Greece’s pioneer hip hop group, Active Member, and China’s most celebrated living poet, Xi Chuan. He is also the Australian Poetry Slam champion of 2011 and Melbourne Overload Poetry Festival slam champion of 2010.
Tonight caught up with Luka during a stopover in Soweto last week. We asked what it was about the spoken word that attracted him to the art.
“I think the honesty and the vulnerability and the skill and the passion… There is something about a poet getting on stage with nothing else, no instruments, no façade, and the real power that comes with that direct form of communication. That’s what kind of led me from writing rap and hip hop, further into writing poetry.
“And also because I had my own stuff to deal with and my own kind of personal growth and a period in my life where I felt I needed hip hop, and from there I got good at performing and writing and now it’s my full-time career and I hope to inspire people to do the same.”
Luka said he drew inspiration from a number of places for his writing, but that if he had to name a few, it would be rapper Lupe Fiasco and Tupac Shakur – whom he credits as the initial rapper who got him to “think about writing and feeling it properly”.
“And there’s a book called The Prophet by Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran… that book really pushed me, it really changed my life.”
For Luka his love of poetry and community work are one, and after almost three years of touring the world with his craft, he is enjoying his experience in South Africa and looks forward to making more “connections”.
“From the stuff that I’ve seen personally with the Word and Sound Crew in Joburg, it was of international quality. Amazing writing, really powerful per- formance, a lot of musicality, just amazing metaphor…
“There’s no need for anybody I’ve seen performing at the top level in South Africa to think that (it) is not the same as the top level in any other country,” he said.
The artist hopes to connect with South African artists “so that they know they have someone in Australia who can link them with people…”
He has a new album coming out on May 1 called Exit “and my dream is to give my album to 20 million worldwide”.
“I’ve been touring for two or three years now and I just feel like I want to give back. The album will be a gift to every community I’ve been to in my career.”
Tour manager Pranishka Nayagar said both Luka and renowned hip hop photographer Mike Schreiber would be touring the country for a month. “Our dates for Durban are from March 10 to 15 and the head- quarters for our events in Durban is the BAT Centre. We have three main events which include work- shops, performances and an exhibition. Our aim and purpose is to perform, run workshops to teach skills in writing, spoken word, poetry and photography, to raise the platform for the arts and give people an opportunity to see international guests perform and pass on their skills.”
• The Luka Lesson Tour is in Durban until March 15 at the Bat Centre (call Menzi on 031 332 0451); March 16 to 22 in Port Elizabeth; and March 23 to 28 in Cape Town.
Follow Luka on www.facebook. com/lukalesson