Cape Verde’s TCHEKA Launches New CD and U.S. Summer Tour;
“Lonji” produced by Brazilian rocker Lenine, out May 27th on Times Square;
12 concert U.S. tour begins June 4th in Chicago
Cape Verde has been best known for its female artists, from the groundbreaking Cesaria Evora to Lura. But a young man from Santiago, the most African of the archipelago’s ten islands, is claiming his place – and with an unexpected sound. Tcheka has not, as might be expected, reached for the tougher side of tradition in order to make his musical mark. Rather, he has embraced the gentlest rhythms of Cape Verde: the musical form batuku, a beat unique to the island of his birth and heretofore primarily the province of women. And Tcheka’s modern version of batuku is projected through a wide lens, as his new CD and upcoming U.S. tour confirms.
Tcheka’s second U.S. release, Lonji, boasts Brazilian rocker Lenine in the production seat. Set for release May 27th on Times Square Records, the CD also sets the stage for a U.S. tour by the Cape Verdean artists, with summer concerts that include Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music, the Detroit Festival of the Arts, and Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. His performance on July 20th at the California World Music Festival in Grass Valley, CA will also celebrate Tcheka’s 35th birthday.
TCHEKA “LONJI” TOUR 2008
Wed June 4 Chicago, IL Old Town School of Folk Music
Thurs June 5 Minneapolis, MN Cedar Cultural Center
Sat June 7 Detroit, MI Detroit Festival of the Arts
Sun June 8 Detroit, MI Detroit Festival of the Arts
Thurs July 10 Rochester, NY George Eastman House
Fri July 11 Kennett Square, PA Longwood Gardens
Sat July 12 New York, NY Joe’s Pub
Tues July 15 Davis, CA UC Davis Mondavi Summer Music
Thurs July 17 Los Angeles, CA Skirball Cultural Center
Fri July 18 Los Angeles, CA California Plaza Grand Performances
Sat July 19 Grass Valley, CA California World Music Festival
Sun July 20 Grass Valley, CA California World Music Festival
The son of a popular violinist raised in the port city of Ribeira Barca in Santiago, Tcheka (Manuel Lopes Andrade) honed his performance skills at the island’s village dances and festivities. At 15, he left home for the wider horizons of Praia, finding employment as a cameraman for Cape Verde’s national television channel. It was there he met José da Silva, whose Lusafrica label had become internationally known as a champion of what many now hail as a Golden Age for Cape Verdean music.
His first release, 2003’s Argui, was one of the first recordings completed at Cape Verde’s new Harmonia studios. His followup recording, Nu Monda, was the first to find its way to American shores via Times Square Records in 2005. Nu Monda also secured Tcheka the Radio France International Music of the World award for “Artist of the Year,” which in turn led to an electrifying debut at WOMEX in Seville.
Tour dates with Cesaria Evora followed, and an audience beyond Europe developed quickly. Tcheka soon crossed paths with Brazil’s maverick rocker Lenine, who jumped at the chance to help shape the young, socially-conscious singer’s third effort.
The resulting Lonji spotlights a performer whose vocals are softer and closer to the ground than other Cape Verdean artists. The recordings also shows a songwriter with a delicate but sure international sensibility, and with a cameraman’s eye for landscape and detail.
Tcheka’s songs are deeply rooted in Santiago’s batuku tradition, which traces its roots to women working in the fields under Portuguese colonial rule. Banned from using drums, Santiago’s women bound up cloth in tight bundles to serve as percussion instruments, creating a low-key backbeat to their songs of births, deaths, hopes and heartbreaks.
For Tcheka, the tradition is more than history, it is musical path to understanding the present. On Lonji, the young singer has crafted a music full of quiet social commentary, transposing the beats to acoustic guitar, dilating and contracting batuku to include funk and jazz, yet staying uniquely Cape Verdean.
As creative as the women whose music he updates, Tcheka employs such everyday items as hubcaps and telephone books for percussion. The result is an album that transports batuku tradition from the past to the present, carrying the echoes of Santiago’s defiant storytellers into a modern age.
See TCHEKA on YouTube:
PRESS QUOTES ABOUT TCHEKA’S “LONJI”
“An album that matches light, soulful vocals with rhythmic, subtle and inventive acoustic instrumental work”
GUARDIAN UK 1/4/08
“Women from the archipelago have made the running lately (lura and Mayra Andrade come to mind), but Tcheka once again proves he can match them for sophistication and soufulness.”
TIMES OF LONDON 2/10/08
“Tcheka is a terrific guitarist, and he has a voice capable of gentle sweetness as well as angst worthy of Salif Keita….restlessness, nostalgia, and grief intermingle with honed songcraft and jazz-worthy musicianship.”
BOSTON PHOENIX 6/28/07