Fely Tchaco: Yita (Deep Water)

Of Routes and Roots

Listening Post 304. Migration is a universal story: All humanity came out of Africa’s Great Rift Valley. Voluntary or involuntary, migration is constant, driven by push-pull factors like dreams, exploration, climate change, conflict, hunger and persecution. Yita (Deep Water), the title track of Fely Tchaco’s fifth album, is a soaring elegy for migrants who never reached their destination and a hymn of hope for those seeking new shores (video 1). The song springs from one voluntary migrant’s encounter—born and raised in Côte d’Ivoire, Tchaco now lives in the United States—with less fortunate travelers. In 2016 she took part in a humanitarian mission to visit and perform for Syrian refugees in Greece, an experience that also reminded her of “those who went on the deep water and never returned”—her grandmother’s ritual evocation of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The other 10 tracks on Yita represent the place an immigrant both leaves behind and carries with her—for Tchaco the sounds and dances of her homeland—and the faith and fortitude that sustain her. She sings with radiance in Guro (language of her father’s tribe), Bété (her mother’s people), French and English, seasoning traditional West African music styles with jazz, rock, techno and funk touches. In Ato Lagoh (Father, God, video 2), Zaouli (video 3) and Cawe Yoko (Shout Out Loud, video 4) she uses Ivoirian rhythms to celebrate facets of her heritage. Her most introspective song, It’s Never Too Late, posits failure as a step toward success (video 5). In addition to a singer-songwriter Tchaco is also a visual artist, fashion designer and—as founder of the African Arts Academy in San Francisco, established to teach and sustain the cultures of Africa and the African diaspora—an educator who practices what she sings. Yita is not only an outstanding album but also an inspired map of space, time and sound. (Fely Productions)

Fely Tchaco: Yita / Deep Water / Eau Profonde
Fely Tchaco: Lead vocals, harmony vocals, narration
Abou Diarrasouba: Traditional drums, congas, percussion
Dominique-Romy Youngquist: Backing vocals
Jeff Simons: Electric guitar
Jerry Martin: Acoustic guitar, electric guitar, autoharp, bass, keyboards, synthesizers, digital drums, percussion, producer, mixing
Jon Kidd: Djembe, drums, percussion
Joseph Wlako: Bass
Paul Sonnabend: Congas
Tim Hager: Electric guitar

 

YIta / Deep Water / Eau Profonde
Lyrics & music: Fely Tchaco

A tribute to migrants who brave and often die in the open sea, and victims of war and hunger, slavery and human trafficking around the world

(From the Guro lyrics)
There is fire in their land, there is war in their land, they spread across the waters
Who is there? They are in trouble, Father come to the rescue
Why is it that their people waste fortune in vain?
Yeah, who is there? The waters are swallowing them

They are swimming in deep water, swimming in deep water, they are
Swimming in deep water, they are
They are swimming in deep water, swimming in deep water, they are
Swimming in deep water, they are
They are swimming in deep water, swimming in deep water

There is fire in their land, there is war in their land, they are spread in the waters
Who is there? They are dying in the water, Father come to the rescue
Why is it that their people waste fortune in vain?
Yeah, who is there? They are being sold as slaves, Father, come to the rescue

They are swimming in deep water, swimming in deep water, they are
Swimming in deep water, they are
They are swimming in deep water, swimming in deep water, they are
O yes in deep water, Yawe, Yawe
They are swimming in deep water, swimming in deep water
Yawe Yawe
They are swimming in deep water, swimming in deep water

 

Ata Lagoh / Father, God
Lyrics & music: Fely Tchaco

Traditional “aloukou” dance rhythm from the Bété tribe, in praise of God for his grace and protection

(From the Bété lyrics)
Here is your daughter, here/To praise you, to say thank you
Lord my father I greet you/I sing aloukou to you
I dance for you/To magnify your greatness
For the love you have for me/Thank you for preserving me

 

Zaouli
Lyrics & music: Fely Tchaco

Traditional Zaouli mask dance honoring the role of women in Guro art and music

(From the Guro lyrics)
My eyes
My eyes want to see any other dance
My eyes want to see only the Zaouli dance

My eyes
My eyes want to see any other dance
My eyes want to see only the Zaouli dance
You are talking about Zaouli

My eyes
My eyes want to see any other dance
My eyes want to see only the Zaouli dance
You are talking about Zaouli

You are talking about Zaouli
You are talking about Zaouli
The beauty of a giraffe
You are talking about Zaouli
You are talking about Zaouli

My heart
My heart doesn’t long for any other dance
My heart goes out to Zaouli
You are talking about Zaouli
You are talking about Zaouli
The beauty of a giraffe
You are talking about Zaouli
You are talking about Zaouli

 

Cawe Yoko / Shout Out Loud
Lyrics & music: Fely Tchaco

A song to celebrating Guro music and dance, calling on people to identify themselves by their towns and regions.

(From the Guro lyrics)
Who’s calling me?/Who’s calling me?
When you are called you shout out loud/shout out loud, who called me?
When you are called you shout out loud/shout out loud, who called me?

What is your name again?
My name is Fely
What is your name again?
I am called the one who is from Sinfra
What is your name again?
I am called Guro woman
What is your name again?
I am called Kweni
Welcome!
Welcome!

When you are called you shout out loud/shout out loud, who called me?
When you are called you shout out loud/shout out loud, who called me?

Pezipe when you go to Marahoue it is party day
Penape when you come from Sinfra it is Ghaou dance
Pezipe when you come from their land it is gbolo
Penape when you come from the Guro land it is party day
Pezina when you come from Bouafle it is Zaouli
Penape when you come from there it is Flali
Pezipe when you come from Zouenoula it is Zamble
Penape when you come from the Guro land it is party day

When you are called you shout out loud/shout out loud, who called me?
When you are called you shout out loud/shout out loud, who called me?

Who called me?/Who called me?
Who called me?/Who called me?

 

It’s Never Too Late
Lyrics & music: Fely Tchaco

Fely’s life story

It’s never too late/It’s never too late
It’s never too late/Never never too late
It’s never too late/It’s never too late
It’s never too late/Never never too late

I thought I was finished, there’ll be no more chance for me
I lost all my confidence, thinking I will never, never make it
My hard work was gone unnoticed hearing the tick tock of my clock
No matter how long it will take, there will be a better day

So I say…

It’s never too late/Never too late
It’s never too late/Never too late
It’s never too late/Never too late
Never never too late/Never too late

Sometimes It seems like you’ll never make it
As if there’ll be no more chance for you
It seems like you are finished, there’ll be no more hope for you
You lost everything that you have and all your hard work gone to waste
No matter how long it will take, there will be a brighter day

So I say…

It’s never too late/to do right
It’s never too late/to do right
It’s never too late/to do right
Never never too late/to do right

It’s never too late/never too late
It’s never too late/never too late
It’s never too late/never never never
Never never too late/never never never

 


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