For African women, singing can be the road to many challenges; however, the same road can lead to personal power which can move mountains, inspire and win battles. Drawing from her own life's experience as well as folk wisdom, Ivory Coast singer Fely embodies the new generation of artists_ who remain attached to their African heritage, while at the same time maintaining a resolutely modern outlook on the world.
Fely Tchaco is one of the San Francisco bay area music scene’s best kept secret. Born in Cote d'Ivoire, West Africa, Fely' s passion with music began in her early teenager years. She remembers escaping many nights to the neighborhood local bands. After realizing her path, Fely came home one day and told her father that music is what she would love to do. Against her father’s negative response, she decided to take matters in her own hands, left home and quit school, then later on joined a group in Yamoussoukro the political Capital as a lead singer. In her native country the Cote d’Ivoire, competition is though as the country is home to many awesome performers and creators of many African music styles who have went to become international super stars such as Alpha Blondy and many more.
In her debut, Fely adopted Latin rhythms, mixed a good crafted musical style of her own, steeped in the traditional rhythm of both her gouro and Bete ethnic culture. She subsequently released 2 albums in the style.
A music video of one of the albums “Mon Espoir” (my hope) sung un French which featured an American actor Tinny Lister won the outstanding music video honor for "Ivoire Clip Show" in 1998, on the national TV. Both albums critically acclaimed sent Fely on concert tours throughout West Africa and rocketed her to national stardom, reveling her talent as a singer songwriter, performer and dancer. Television appearances on many entertainment shows coupled with music magazines interviews making headlines celebrating her talents, Fely became a household name.
In the early 2000's Fely sought to expand her wings outside Africa and instead of moving to Paris as it is customarily the case for many Ivorian artists coming from a French speaking country, she chose to settle in San Francisco, where she formed her own band. “San Francisco reminds me much of Abidjan the capital city of Cote d’Ivoire which also has a bay with two bridges connecting the city to the surrounding communities. Beside that, San Francisco is also the sister city of Abidjan. It is a perfect setting for me.” While, studying in graphic arts communication, Fely continued working on her music career, writing and recording new materials. Her first U.S. debut album "De Zere Gnan" was released in 2004 followed by an EP "Awareness” in 2008. Both recordings were a collection of songs written during the period when she was in hiatus concentrating on her college education. Her lyrics draw on life experiences, ruminating on what is going on in the world today and in her own native country.
Her latest release is “Maturite”, a collection of songs with a strong message of hope and peace not only for her country, but for the entire world. Fely sings in many different languages, English, French and in her native Gouro language, emphasizing on her cultural background, infused with traditional folk rhythms.
The central theme of “Maturite” is Africa; Fely pays tribute to Africa for its contribution to the world. “Goba,” the first track of the album has won an honorable mention in the world music category in the 2010 International Songwriting Competition (ISC). The finalists were chosen from over 15,000 entrants. In fact, this was the most competitive year to date, making this an extraordinary achievement for fely. Many of her songs have social messages as well as political realities in Africa. Fely calls for peace and reconciliation. “All we need is peace instead of division amongst all my fellow Ivorians regardless of religion or national origins.” Her new album "Maturite” (Maturity) delivers the best of both worlds, a bridge between where she comes from and where she is now. Fely is a total package with a powerful persona, positive aura, she is a dynamic performer and dancer as well specializing in rhythms of the forest like
Zaouli, Gaou, Alloukou, Gbegbe, etc...
Fely is surrounded by a plethora of professional musicians who are much in tune with the percussive sounds and beats that are part of her culture. Fely also collaborated with renowned composers such as Jerry Martin former Audio Director of Electronic Arts (EA) and Serge Bile an international writer based in Martinique. Fely wants to be the bearer of the unique rhythm and represent her culture through the music she grew up with. As she explains; “our culture is disappearing, it is therefore my duty to break new ground throughout the United States and expose it to the audience. I am devoted to this.” As in her previous albums, Fely writes her songs and self-produces her albums. She also designs and assumes the art direction. As versatile she may be, she also has remained true to her roots.
By Emmanual Nado KALW 91.7 FM