SCHENECTADY — When Luke Olensky, also known as Luca Brassy, puts his mind to something, miracles happen.
The former wrestler has found his groove as a hip hop artist. While he’s slinging weights and correcting form by day as a personal trainer, he’s found a niche in music that’s grounded thousands of miles from the Capital District.
Olensky brings African music, specifically tunes from west and south Africa, to the 518. He’s worked with a handful of artists from the second-largest continent in the world. He will contribute a beat — maybe some lyrics, depending on the project — and bring back a fresh, innovative track that people from both places can enjoy.
Olensky said his interest in African music stems from his love of South African musician Johnny Clegg as a kid. His father got him into it. The complexities of the tracks caught his ear. As early as 4 years old, he’s found a home in the variety.
“Listening to Johnny Clegg as a kid really opened my eyes because it was like nothing I’ve heard before,” Olensky said. “It’s starkly different from the music you find here. I love how the music is layered with multiple meanings and has all of these intricate details.”
Olensky and his co-writers have never met in person. To be honest, they’ve never even spoken on the phone. Olensky and the musicians he works with correspond entirely by email and other digital means. While one might think the music would suffer from this arrangement, Olensky said it’s just the opposite. The parties will send demos and parts of the song back and forth until they form a cohesive master track. Olensky relies on his mixing talents to layer each track so it all comes together. If you listen to each song, it’s as if he was in Africa.
Olensky also uses his platform, aptly named Brassy’s World, to promote music he’s passionate about. Not only does the platform give local arts a boost in listeners; it gives them a place to tell their stories and what music means to them. He’s acutely aware of how context can elevate the listening experience, something he learned from listening to Clegg, whose music was a powerful anti-apartheid voice in Africa.
“Working with these artists has taught me how to be open to diversity and how to be more dynamic,” Olensky said. “I’m able to make a good record with anyone and it’s a testament to the strength of the work we are putting out.”
To listen to Olensky’s show and find his music, visit lucabrassy.com.