SIU alumnus wins Global Music Award for remake of song, ‘Africa’

By Kitt Fresa, Features Editor

SIU alumnus Kevin Lucas won a silver medal at the 2018 Global Music Awards “Instrumentalist” category for a remake of the song “Africa” by Toto.

Each year Global Music Awards receives hundreds of entries from around the world. According to the award’s website, that if they honor your work it will enhance your worldwide credibility making it easier to lock in bookings, get discovered and sign to record labels.

This is Lucas’s 43rd music industry award or nomination from 9 different organizations since 2014.


Lucas said he was honored to receive the award but was taught from a young age it’s not the awards that are the most important, but the art.

“If you focus on that, the awards will come,” Lucas said. “I’ve had periods of my life where I went several years with no awards and I felt like I made really good art. Then I’ve had periods of my life, the last few years where they’re flowing in like water but it doesn’t make my art now any greater than it was five years ago, it’s just sometimes you get recognized and sometimes you don’t.”

Lucas said as an artist, one has to realize that you need to focus on keeping busy and working hard and not let awards effect what you do.

“Awards can be dangerous,” Lucas said. “That’s why I think it’s very important to not focus on them. It’s all about your vision and what you’re trying to accomplish and you’re focused on excellence.”

Lucas first heard the song Africa by Toto as a child and said his version goes back to his childhood.

“I like the lyrics, I think the lyrics are really deep and I like the rhythms. Even though the rhythms are simple, they have kind of an Eastern African flare to them,” Lucas said.

Lucas grew up in the southwest suburbs of Chicago in a town called Lockport. At age seven, Lucas started playing piano and then went into percussion in grade school. He said he’s always loved music and that it’s always been a passion of his.


Lucas later came to SIU where he got his Bachelor’s degree in Education and a Graduate degree in Performance from the School of Music.

He said he’s deeply rooted in SIU and loved the area so much that he bought a few acres of land in Pomona where he now resides.

When Lucas decided to remake ‘Africa’ he intended to keep the respect of the song because of how legendary the song was to him along with the amazing artists who wrote it.

“I told myself if I do this it can’t suck it’s got to be top of the line, just to be able to respect the original and to try to take it to a new level,” Lucas said.

Lucas said the song already had a great foundation and that he wanted to add a new level to it. The song was taken a step further when he and Dan Johnson, a local Filmmaker and Artist made it into a music video.

Johnson knew of Lucas since he was very young and later on Johnson approached Lucas about using some of his music in one of his films.

Over time the two have done over half a dozen videos together.

“It’s his idea for the most part,” Johnson said. “I walk in knowing what he wants, knowing what the limitations are…We try to make them [videos] look pretty good.”

The song itself was arranged by Lucas and Jeff Moore, Professor of Percussion and Dean of Fine Arts at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Moore was a former mentor of Lucas’s.

“Sometimes you have to do other work just to pay for the vision that you have and Kevin has done that to balance his life but remains an artist in the true sense of the word. He is all consumed with the creating and sharing his performances and his music so I’m very happy for Kevin,” Moore said.

Lucas said he considered Moore to be his mentor and said his own music has been often influenced by Moore’s style.

The Carbondale Science Center let Lucas use their PVC pipe marimba made by SIU School of Engineering students for the video and song.

“It’s nice to have SIU, my alma mater involved in this project. They were actually nonmusic students who built that. They strictly used engineering and math, and they got those pitches right on. To me that impresses me,” Lucas said.

For the song, Lucas handpicked all the musicians including flute player Wouter Kellerman.

Kellerman is a Grammy Award Winner and Number 1 Billboard Artist.

Lucas’s version of Africa was also mixed by Grammy Award Winning producer Ricky Kej in India, and also by Mike Lesceslius at Misunderstudio in Murphysboro, IL.

Right now Lucas is split between his tile installation business and playing gigs at some of the local wineries. Lucas’s plans for the future are to keep gigging and to keep working on his next project which will be a Christmas album.

“My goal was never to be famous, it was just to make music and have some success doing it and to really just enjoy myself along the way. That’s all you can hope for as an artist,” Lucas said.

Staff writer Kitt Fresa can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @kittfresa.

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