Ahead of Mista Savona’s Sydney tour, we spoke to the musical maestro about his influences, his bold new sound, and his new project, Havana Meets Kingston.

1. Growing Up

I grew up listening to my mum’s vinyl collection: Bach, Mozart, Tchaikovsky and lots of ’60s rock’n’roll. That gave me a good appreciation of wax, as well as quality musicianship. Later I started collecting blues and jazz vinyl, and then reggae and world music. Neither of my parents are musicians, but both are academic and creative. I began playing piano from aged six, and soon became obsessed. Music is now my full time occupation.

2. Inspirations

My tastes in music are so broad that it’s impossible to answer a question like, ‘Who are your favourite musicians?’ What I love in music is skill and beauty – virtuosity balanced with an ability to communicate emotion and human depth. I particularly love music with rich cultural traditions. Some of my favourite artists who have influenced me greatly over the years are Wynton Kelly, Miles Davis, Guillermo Portabales, Ram Narayan, Mos Def, Dre, Tropkillaz, Augustus Pablo, Jimi Hendrix, Om Unit, and Havana Cultura.

3. Your Band

We begin our latest tour this Friday in Sydney with two brilliant singers, Randy Valentine (UK/Jamaica) and Solis (Cuba), who both feature on ‘Carnival’, our first single from the Havana Meets Kingston project. If you haven’t heard this tune, please check the amazing split screen video we made for it, filmed in both Cuba and Jamaica.

4. The Music You Make

My new album Havana Meets Kingston¬†was recorded in Cuba at Egrem Studios in Havana, which is where the famous Buena Vista Social Club¬†project was recorded. It’s one of the most wonderful sounding studios in the world. Musically, the album is a mix of Cuban son and salsa, with roots reggae, dancehall, hip-hop and Afrrican influences. It’s sung in both Spanish and English, and is a wonderful meeting of cultures and musical styles. People can expect an electric live show, high energy and a journey through many styles of music that have their roots in the Carribbean.

5. Music, Right Here, Right Now

I love Sydney but I would love to see way more support for the music and arts from the powers that be. NSW has become a nanny state and it is crippling creativity and the music scene in particular, and in general contributing to a more sterile and boring city. This is the honest truth! I encourage everyone to join the Keep Sydney Open movement as well as lobbying their leaders and local politicians into relaxing these laws and supporting the arts across the board.

Mista Savona unveils the Havana Meets Kingston project this Friday October 20 at the Manning Bar in Sydney. The album, Havana Meets Kingston, will be released Friday November 3.

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