Thursday, July 25, 2024

Fostering cultural harmony with rhythm beyond borders

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The Reunion Island-born pianist Valerie Chane Tef, in an interaction with The Pioneer, discusses her music and creating rhythms via Akoda.

SHIKHA DUGGAL
Reunion Island-born pianist Valerie Chane Tef created and is also the leader of the trio AKODA, which is in Bordeaux. With Benjamin Pellier on bass, Franck Leymeregie on percussion, Eric Perez on drums and Thomas Boude on bass, Akoda is continuing its voyage in 2024. The group was excited to welcome Hyderabad with Creole ballads that highlighted their uniqueness and infectious “joie de vivre.” They have been honing their sound for the past ten years.
One of the primary band members, Valerie, begins an exclusive interview with great passion by saying, “I’m from an island known as “Intense island,” renowned for the harmony between its diverse cultures and natural surroundings. My roots and all that is a part of my past are reflected in my music. Once more, my musical sensibilities are strongly influenced by my cultural background. Thus, my heart is my island, no matter where I am. During my several trips, back and forth between Reunion and other nations, I wrote Muzik pou lo Ker. For me, the most crucial element was making the initial release available to everyone on my island. It was a singular occasion and my career high point.”
She has also performed on numerous stages, including the Martinique Jazz Festival, Éclats d’Email, the Pan Piper, the Rocher de Palmer and the Scène Musicale. The pianist-composer continues, “Akoda’s journey is summarised in this album called Nout Souk. My goal in creating music is to unite people around various themes such as “love,” “stronger together,” “humanity,” and “love in all its forms”. The creolity of these languages is what unites them. I really like the rhythms and moods that come from this culture. The decision to speak in one or the other language is impulsive and is motivated by a desire to honour our common past. These musicians are eager to showcase their rich heritage via their music. I like and adore how they blend origins and contemporary. I find equilibrium in this frame of mind.” As a total, the group performs and takes part in a continuing heritage of singing in languages from Martinique, Guadalupe and the Reunion as well as their own original language imbued with intense emotions, dancing bodies and throbbing hearts.
Valerie also mentions, “My favourite venue for expressing who I am and the meaning behind my songs is on stage. It matters to me that the audience feels good and smiles a lot when we leave. I came to the point in my creative career where I felt that it was crucial to give my songs lyrics! Speaking in my mother tongue was quite natural for me to do. The highlight of the trip was playing as Avishai Cohen’s opening act at the storied Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. It was amazing to perform in front of 2,000 enthusiastic fans. For me, it’s still one of the most thrilling sensations. To expand my experiences sharing music, I would like to work on more collaborative projects. Collabs provide me nourishment and let me develop and flourish. Additionally, I want to travel more.”

At the age of seven, Reunion Island native Valerie Chane Tef, a pianist and composer, started taking classical piano lessons. However, she began her career with jazz and creole music. Valerie draws inspiration from a variety of musicians, including Omar Sosa, Alain Jean-Marie, Tania Maria and Daniel Waro. She has a distinct style with upbeat, captivating melodies that narrate her story without the need for words. She lives in a world that includes her broad cultural background and the artists who have influenced her. Valerie gives the trio a fresh feel on the recently released album Nout’ Souk and contributes some Créole vocals.

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