POP& JAZZ

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Luciano plays Malcolm X Centre, Bristol, 16 Nov; Brixton Academy, London, 17 Nov

The huffing and puffing about lack of moral guidance for the young and the need for spiritual renewal might be flavour of the month in Britain, but Jamaican reggae saw the moral values war kick off a couple of years back. On one side was Shabba Ranks and his ilk; loose gals, guns and bad-boy menace ruled their ragga chat, and reflected problems in society at large. On the other side, and growing in influence, was the spiritually minded rasta reggae brigade, including a reformed Buju Capelton and Luciano.

Luciano, ironically named after the Italian gangster Lucky Luciano, has emerged as the leading light in the movement. There was no "slackness" - Jamaican patois for crude and lewd behaviour - in his debut 1995 Island Jamaica album Where There Is Life, only handsomely sung, righteous path reggae. The recently released follow-up, Messenger, is even better, with bright and crossover-friendly tunes backing up Luciano's unflagging lyrical praise of Jah and, er, his mother.

On the phone from Jamaica, the affable Luciano talks with a philosophical calm but undeniable passion about why the ruffneck dancehall style became so popular in the 1980s. "Bob Marley had been willing to go that extra mile with his work, he had a zealous spirit, of a kind that was lacking after he died," Luciano explains. "People became obsessed with vanity living and materialistic tendencies. I am one who has dedicated my life to positive music, for the sake of humanity instead of vanity. In Jamaica, most people are the end products of slavery and even now there's a great disillusionment and and a vast separation of the people. But this is where music comes in, as a purifying essence."

Luciano talks with such a warm but resolute twang, it's no wonder he has dissolved cynicism and, on the quiet, become a massive underground star. Before long he will be making his dignified way into the mainstream.

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