While alluding to the musical traditions of his native island of Santiago, Tcheka's sound is entirely unique to his personal style. As a young boy, he performed alongside his father, a popular violinist at the island's village dances and festivities. But it was the songs of the women that appealed to him. He was enchanted by the beat of batuque, a traditional style rich with collective memory and popular identity, originally developed by Santiago's women to get around the ban on drums by the Church and the Portuguese colonial authorities. Batuque was first played by women after work in the fields. Sitting in a circle, they tapped on a bundle of cloth, normally made of piled loincloths that they rolled up and held between their legs. The style is still played in Santiago today, though some aspects have been adapted. Young Tcheka heard these rhythms and dreamt of widening the appeal of batuque, turning it into a beat that everyone would love. And so he continued the trend that the women began by improvising and adapting tradition, taking the time-honored rhythms out of the fields and transposing them to guitar.
The island of Santiago is one of ten in the Cape Verdean archipelago, a former Portuguese colony midway between Portugal, Angola, and Brazil, not quite African nor European, but influenced by both. Too far apart for a convenient and safe boat ride and too expensive to fly between, islanders rarely travel from one island to another. This isolation gives each island its own unique musical style and blend of influences. Santiago is considered the "most African" of the islands, and a new, homegrown style is emerging in Tcheka's music – a different sound from the sweet sorrow of Evora's morna, which is related to Portuguese fado and Brazilian modinha.
"Nobody knows where Tcheka's style came from," says Paris-based Jose da Silva, who manages both Tcheka and Evora and has done much to bridge Cape Verdean music with the rest of the world. "His town has one bar and nobody there sounds like Tcheka. It is a mystery."» (Read more at RockPaperScissors)
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