The island of Cape Verde, located on the Atlantic Ocean, at a crossroads of three continents, combines an ethnically diverse musical culture of African, Portuguese and Brazilian influences.
One of the highly acclaimed torchbearers of music from the archipelago will bring the raw power of his performance of guitar and voice to Nairobi next Friday night.
Singer, songwriter and guitarist Tcheka who performs for the first time in Kenya at a single show at the Alliance Francaise next Saturday night, has earned respect around the world for taking the best traditional music from Cape Verde and giving the sound a contemporary edge with his soulful vocals and inventive acoustic guitar.
“I have performed all over Africa, but this is my first time in Kenya. I'm really looking forward to connecting with the audience,” he said in an online interview with the Business Daily ahead of his arrival in Nairobi.
“Although I sing in Cape Verdean Kriolu, I try to evoke certain emotions that transcend spoken language.”
His music references multiple genres from Cape Verde like batuku, funana, finason, tabanka, morna and coladeira; it is also an intersection of Brazilian and African rhythms, pop and traditional, jazz, blues, rock.
His previous experience in East Africa was performing at the renowned Sauti za Busara in Zanzibar in 2015 but next week’s concert will mark his first ever visit to Kenya.
“I've chosen a repertoire that takes us on a journey full of aural dynamics with voice and guitar,” he says while describing the kind of sound that music fans in Nairobi can expect during the show.
“I'll be performing a solo concert - I will use two types of guitar, nylon-string and a steel-string guitar”
He says his repertoire for the Nairobi concert has been chosen to reflect different feelings and moods, but his performance favorites include songs like, "Strada Pico" and "Mar de Fogo."
Tcheka disagrees with the view that there is very little contact between English speaking musicians and their Lusophone counterparts in Africa, saying technology has cut barriers between musicians and generated collaboration across borders and continents.
“Personally, I had the good fortune of meeting and collaborating with English-speaking African musicians in Senegal, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Tanzania.”
He says beyond festivals, inter-cultural exchanges sponsored by state and institutional actors, whose mission is to promote culture, have also help tremendously in multi national musical partnerships.
Tcheka was born Manuel Lopes Andrade on the island of Santiago, Cape Verde on 20 July 1973. At a young age, he began performing alongside his father, a popular violinist at the island’s dances. By his teenage, Tcheka began to develop a distinct style based on batuku, one of the popular rhythms of Santiago that was originally played by women. His mission was to make the music gain wider popularity, regardless of gender or nationality.
He moved to the capital city of Praia where he worked as a cameraman for the national television in Cape Verde and met a songwriting partner in Julio Rodrigues, also a fellow journalist.
He has modernized batuku with a fresh take on the music while conserving its traditional structures and introduced the music to audiences at his concerts in different parts of the world. Tcheka has also extended his interest to other rhythms from Cape Verde like the carnival beat of tabanka and talulu, all of which are flavored with funk, jazz and pop influences while still retaining their original traditional sound.
He has released 5 albums so far, the first was “Argui” in 2003, and followed two years later by “Nu Monda” which was his first release in the U.S market. His third album “Lonji” was released in 2007, “Dor De Mar” in 2011 and the latest, “Boka Kafe” in 2017.
Tcheka career benefited from the support and mentorship of the most famous musician from Cape Verde, the late great Cesária Evora, popularly known as the “barefoot diva”
“I had the great fortune of touring all over the world with Cesária Évora. It really helped me to broaden my perspective musically, socially and politically,” he says.
Tcheka Live in Nairobi is curated by Abdi Rashid Jibril founder of Roots International who also organize the popular Thursday Night Live concerts in Nairobi and has brought other top African acts to Kenya including the South African a cappella act The Soil in August 2018.