PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Tcheka: Nu Monda

This is not the usual story of a traditional music gone global; instead, Tcheka's album narrates the survival of traditional rhythms in the face of increasing globalization.


Nu Monda

Label: 4Q
US Release Date: 2007-05-22
UK Release Date: 2006-10-30

Gentle, heartrending melodies characterize Tcheka's latest release, entitled Nu Monda or "weeding" in English. The album is an homage both to the farming traditions of the artist's native island of Santiago and the ways in which he selects from and cultivates traditional rhythms. As explained in the CD's liner notes, "nu djunta mon" means "working together": "There is a lot of work, but if we all get together we can do it". Notwithstanding the fact that Tcheka projects a solitary image of himself on the cover of his latest release, there can be no doubt that his sounds are indebted to the rich, musical traditions of his homeland.

Just as the people of Santiago need to work together in order to survive, Santiago's musicians have had to struggle together to continue longstanding, musical traditions in the face of Portugese colonial oppression. Drums may have been banned during the colonial period by the Church and the colonial administration, but the region's women in particular resisted colonialism and adapted traditional beats to contemporary life. They did so first with the help of bundled loincloths and, later, with plastic bags which when tapped produced a multiplicity of sounds. Tcheka follows suit, affirming a history of women's resistance and showing how their musical traditions might take new directions.

This is not a matter of appropriation; to argue that Tcheka simply appropriates a female tradition for the purposes of furthering his own social commentary would be to neglect the complex, cultural traditions of Santiago and proximate regions. Traditional rhythms have always undergone change in the Cape Verdean archipelago, and Santiago, considered the most "African" of the ten islands, is no exception. In response to colonialism's culture, which attempted to eradicate traditional customs by restricting the use of musical instruments, the women of Santiago transformed everyday items into percussive tools to voice their protest and express their collective identity. Tcheka takes their legacy seriously, transposing the women's batuque rhythms to guitar in a way that respects rather than repossesses their unique take on modernity. His is a woeful yet suprisingly energetic butuque subtly laced with funk and other elements gathered from popular African forms.

There is also a great emphasis placed on the storytelling or "griot" traditions of Africa. "Amizadi Si" tells the story of a friendship gone bad, "Djan Bedja" tells the story of a man left to age alone after his sons have gone to study abroad, and "Talulu" tells the story of Fogo Island's traditional customs. Other tracks tell different stories, each a snapshot of life lived in a region that has encountered numerous difficulties. Tcheka's powerful voice provides the means of narration. His ability to articulate a wide range of notes, along with his penchant for emotional expression, make for an album that can only be described as exquisite. All in all, Nu Monda paints a nuanced picture of Cape Verde and the peoples who have courageously inhabited and continue to inhabit the archipelago. This is not the usual story of a traditional music gone global; instead, Tcheka's album implicitly narrates the survival of traditional rhythms in the face of increasing globalization.

The second of Tcheka's releases, Nu Monda builds on 2003's Argui to articulate a need for the continuance of traditional music and, with it, the collective identity of a people who have experienced more than their share of change. Audiences in Cape Verde and beyond have responded well to Tcheka's revivalist project: the album won a Radio France International Music of the World Award in 2005 for Artist of the Year, and Tcheka himself has been christened in popular discourse as one of the world's greatest "pop-griots" or storytellers. Tcheka's manager Jose da Silva is quoted as saying that "Nobody knows where Tcheka's style came from". In his aim to preserve the structure of traditional music, Tcheka does manage to establish a style that is altogether new. Nothing could be more fitting in an artist who hails from a region where music has always continued in radically novel ways.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.


15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.