Tcheka shines at Hifa

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Cape Verdean artist Tcheka, born Manuel Lopes Andrade, put up a brilliant performance at Harare International Festival of the Arts (Hifa) on Stanbic Bank Day on Thursday.

He performed music from the archipelago of Cape Verde and his native island of Santiago, complemented by his exceptional talent on the acoustic guitar.

His subtle, vivid lyricism, always accompanied by fluent vocal ability made the audience sing along despite the language barrier.

Tcheka’s major turning point in his music career came with the 2000 release of the compilation Ayan: New Music from Cape Verde.

“I’m happy and excited to be performing at Hifa and I’m simply loving the audience,” said Tcheka.

“When I create a song, it is like a sequence of images, like the frames of a film before my eyes. The melody itself is a story I actually see in my head and then I write the lyrics according to that vision.”

Tcheka’s music is a blend of Caribbean, Brazilian and African pop and traditional forms, folk, jazz, blues, rock, literature, anthropology and film.

Among Tcheka’s three contributions to this groundbreaking project was the original version of Primeru Bes Kin Ba Cinema (The First Time I Went To The Cinema), in which he recounts, with levity and great detail, the moment he first saw a movie.

Born in 1973 in Ribeira da Barca, a small rural town on the north-eastern coast of Santiago, whose modest economy is based on farming and fishing, Tcheka has emerged to be one of the forces to reckon with in jazz circles throughout Africa.

He was the second-from-last (penultimate) child in a large musical family and music was the family’s breadwinner for many years.

His father, Nhô Raul Andrade, was a renowned violinist who taught music to his sons and eventually created a small family band that played at local weddings, funerals and baptism ceremonies.

Tcheka says he learnt to play the acoustic guitar under duress when he was eight years old, and by age nine, he was playing in the family band under the direction of his stern father.

Like so many young Cape Verdeans, Tcheka’s secondary education had to be cut short because his family could not afford school fees, so his teenage years were spent fishing, diving and exploring the coast around his hometown.