Performing in conjunction with the National Museum of Australia’s new exhibition, Ancient Greeks: Athletes, Warriors and Heroes is poetry and hip-hop artist Luka Lesson.
Known for his dynamic performances that combine poetry and rap, Luka’s Agapi & Other Kinds of Love explores the power of love in both the ancient and modern Greek worlds. Speaking to his Greek heritage, the story incorporates the mythology and history of his family homeland and is a very important project for him after a two-year halt due to COVID-19.
We spoke to Luka about the origins of his unique form of art, the inspiration for Agapi and what audiences should look forward to.
Where did your love for poetry and rap start?
I hated poetry in high school, but I loved to listening hip hop. Then eventually I put two and two together and realised that hip hop and rap is a form of poetry. Performing my verses without music made them stand out in a more spoken word kind of way, so I started entering them into poetry slams.
How did you turn this into a career?
With a lot of tenacity, hustle, hard work and love for the art form. I wrote my first rap in 2002 and started entering in poetry slams in around 2006. I felt like at a certain point I couldn’t live without it and instead of thinking that it was a risk to quit my day job to pursue poetry and rap as a life, it actually became more of a risk not to. I became a full-time artist in 2011.
Your Greek heritage is a main part of your work, why has this been important for you?
It’s inseparable from who I am, it’s not something that I can point at and say it’s important to me because it’s not separate from me. It’s something that I’m constantly engaging with, constantly speaking from. Whenever I sit down to write or create something, I am engaging with my history. Often when I’m given an opportunity to create a new piece of art, I seek out a certain aspect of my history and culture to learn about.
What do you love about being a storyteller?
Speaking a new world into existence. The moment of being on stage for me is about being seen, witnessed, vulnerable and authentic. I feel like I’m most ‘me’ on stage. While I’m performing, I’m also witnessing the audience experiencing and connecting with the work. I’m constantly responding to them, who they are and the energy they give to me. It’s not just a one-way street and no two performances are ever the same.
Can you tell us a little bit about your performance Agapi and Other Kinds of Love and your inspiration?
It’s inspired by Plato’s The Symposium, where Sokrates is telling a group of guests that he knows everything about love, and he learned from a women named Diotima. That was the initial inspiration, and then the fact that the Ancient Greeks have many different words for the types of love. I deal with seven types of loves in Agapi. In my story, Sokrates and Diotima are in the ancient world, discovering and discussing love, then a reincarnation of them, Sophia and Pavlo, a modern Greek couple, are also discovering the different types of love. Through journeying with them, we learn about these types in both an ancient and modern Greek context.
It’s one long story, made up of poems and rap songs. I’m telling the story but there are very big soundscapes. One is the ancient Greek world, which is made up of sounds researched from ancient Greece. Then there is the modern Greek world, that is influenced by a genre of hip hop from Athens called low bap, that focuses on the poetic nature of the words. The third soundscape is more futuristic and that is the world that the god’s inhabit.
How does this story speak to you personally?
This story is the most ‘me’ thing I’ve ever written. Unadulterated, unedited reflection of who I am as a human being and an artist. I am in all of the characters in some capacity. Ancient Greek history is quite dense, but I go deeper than the usual Zeus and Athena. This is a pinnacle of my work, everything that I am really does come to a combination in Agapi.
What is the main takeaway you want the audience to walk away with?
A heightened ability to love by having a more nuanced vocabulary around the types of love and therefore a better ability to see the different types and how they work in everyday life. I believe just by seeing them, they automatically are then more present in our lives.
Why did you decide to team up with the National Museum of Australia?
I thought that this was an absolute perfect fit for me to be able to perform this work alongside ancient Greek artefacts that are being displayed in the exhibition. I feel like this will give more potency and power to my work. It just made sense.
We are giving away 2x DOUBLE PASSES to see Agapi & Other Kinds of Love.
To enter, simply tag a friend who you want to see this performance with on our Instagram and go in the running to win!