Roman Lupu’s musical and cultural pivot toward the Caribbean and South America belies his nationality and ancestry (he was born in Moldova); lending credence to the adage that music is the universal language.
I met Lupu in New York while he was plugging his upcoming performance at Lincoln Center. His search for meaning through music resonates His is an eclectic flair that fuses Caribbean rhythms with pop and classical overtones. His latest work, ‘Absurd World’ turns predictability on its head. Critically acclaimed, some viewed it as gestalt of competing aesthetics.
A producer, singer and musician, Lupu unreservedly mentions the influence of Caribbean greats: Wyclef Jean, Bob Marley, Shaggy and Marc Anthony, their musical styles seeping into his haunting repertoire. His moniker: ‘Y-Limit,’ is self-explanatory: Lupu’s creativity cannot be really classified. “Classifications stymie artistic growth,” he says.
In talking, we found something in common – the artistic impulse to heal the collective, through the arts. It is a journey without an end, bruising at times, but always rewarding.
Glenville Ashby (GA): Tell us briefly about your formative years and the role music played in your upbringing.
Roman Lupu (RL): I started on the good foot with music from an early stage. My daughter reminds me of that. Just like she, I was curious about it, and learnt the songs my grandpa would teach me with ease. I would also study all the music that my dad would play at home, or in the car. More interested in the songwriting aspect rather than singing, as I was a quiet kid. I would study it, trying to figure out what would be the next chord, or melodic resolution.
GA: Let us talk philosophy and culture, how does your music influence and has been influenced by these two forces?
RL: I am a constantly learning mind/soul. Because of that, I do not know if I have a set philosophy, or I guess, you could call that in itself a life philosophy – student of life. As for culture – I am a man of several different cultures, and I feel a connection to life on a deeper level. Maybe from the previous lives? That is reflected in my work.
As a kid, I listened to Russian, Romanian, and U.S. pop. Growing older, I started appreciating more singer/songwriters (storytellers). Then a wave of Soul and RnB hit me, understanding emotions and the feeling more than sticking to a structure, and just letting it be. Shortly after, I was captured by Bachata/Salsa, Merengue, maybe because of my short ballroom dancing background. To this day, I find and listen to songs from Nigeria, Denmark, France, and the Caribbean, in particular.
GA: How do you come up with musical concepts and themes? Have you been influenced by Caribbean and Latin music. Is anything especially unique about this genre?
As most creatives would confirm, ideas come from the air. Alternatively, as others say – it is the connection you have with God, from the above, as it seems that it is almost dictated to you and flowing out of you with ease.
As I mentioned earlier, I find music interesting from all over the world, including Caribbean and Latin. I really do not know what the cause is. Maybe some genes? (I still have to go through with my ancestry test.) Nevertheless, there is a definite strong connection between Latin music and me. I sometimes feel more Latin than my Dominican wife. She can second that. There is an honesty about it, a love for life, a melancholy and pure emotion, passion. And that is probably the bottom line. Honesty, not just in music, but all aspects of life, is very important.
GA: I have been critical of music and culture for lacking creativity and authentic expression. What are your thoughts on this subject??
RL: I think so. At least partially. If we are talking about popular music – then yes, absolutely. That is why it is popular; it is accessible to people of all sorts of backgrounds and demographics. Simplicity in harmony with today’s sound, is to what people respond. Then it is copycatting.
However, even within that you can hear traces of some creative ideas of people, like Kanye West. He takes it even farther that just music. He does what many creatives would love to do. Whatever his creative expression – people will still be intrigued by it, and will at least try it. However, other inventive people are unknown. They are either very niche, or get lost in the abundance of today’s information. If there is a truth, it is that everything changes and everything is relative.
This is the world, and we as people go through cyclical periods. What is popular today will not be tomorrow and then again, and again. Which makes it interesting to observe, but there is no real change, although we all are looking for one.
GA: There seems to be the reliance on exhibitionism and shock value. Is this a question of lack of talent or commercialism?
RL: That is an interesting point. I have always wondered as well. Yes, there are artists (or their management) that figured out human behaviour and are abusing it. We as people have always reacted, easily triggered by the bad, shocking, irritating; it moves us more than what is peaceful and loving. It is no different to our complaining more than we express gratitude, although we have plenty to be thankful for.
GA: You have since launched a solo career. Why this undertaking, and how has this move redefined you as a person and musician?
RL: My solo career goes parallel to my band project. I consider both as one. I take responsibility and constantly think of ideas to take it to the next level: write, record, try different promoting approaches.
GA: What is your advice for the musical aspirant?
RL: I do not know if I am in the position of giving any advice, given the fact that I am not a popular artist, and still working on making this a full time thing. However, I can share lessons from my mistakes.
– The earlier you take the risks, the easier it will be later on.
– And do whatever you want, however you want, and take responsibility for your actions. If you fail, at least you know whose fault it is and what needs to be done.
– Share, share, share your music. Especially nowadays, with all the online tools.
– The more you communicate and share your work, ideas, the more people you meet, and the better. Mostly in any industry, or aspect of life, it is about who you know rather then what. At least in this order: 1. who? 2. what?
Therefore, I started my #meet1000strangers challenge that has helped me encounter so many people that have shown interest in my music. I am very grateful!
GA: What’s next for Roman Lupu?
RL: Oh, I do not know. Moreover, I do not know if I want to know. Life is full of surprises, and I kind of like that. However, if you ask about my artistic plans, I look forward to my Big Show at PlayStation Theater in Times Square. I will keep writing music, keep evolving and growing as a human being and an artist.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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