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ThéKo – Many languages, many songs

ThéKo – Many languages, many songs

By Missy Green.

Théko is open-hearted to say the least.  This sunny girl from the Republic of Georgia sings in any language, plays with any musician and unexpectedly invites complete strangers to go shopping with her after coffee (me).  I sat down with Théko at a bustling café near Parmentier to find out about her music and life as a musician.

“4 years ago I woke up and said ‘I need a guitar,’” Théko laughs.  “It happened just like that.”  Since then she’s picked up ukulélé and djembé to add to her growing repertoire.  But Théko’s oldest and most valuable instrument is her shining voice.  She has sung a cappella since she was a teen, the same way she began her concert Saturday, February 1st at the Grenade Rouge jewelry boutique.  She swung and snapped her fingers to Ella Fitzgerland’s Lullaby of Birdland, in the crowded and brightly illuminated glass box of a jewelry store on an otherwise dark and abandoned street.

The soirée felt like a night at an old friend’s house. With each new guest arriving, Théko warmly smiled and greeted them with bisous. Musically speaking, she navigates between Jazz, Folk, Pop and World Music, touching on themes of friendship, loneliness, ephemeral happiness, unaccomplished dreams, love and odd coincidences with Bus 64.  Her first song ever written is called Loser Song and it’s completely in Georgian. The few Georgians who were present held a huge grin, snickering to her lyrics. Théko describes her most powerful moment in concert came in November 2013 when she performed before an entire Georgian audience for the first time.  Her own songs were finally collectively understood and it was magic.

Apart from Georgian, she sings in Russian, English, Portuguese, French, Turkish, Arabic, Italian and Spanish.  Théko says singing in someone’s native language, draws you closer to them in unexplainable ways.  Learning Arabic music introduced her to a vast new culture which deeply touched her. Since last year, she made covers of several arabic singers such as Fairuz, Oum Kalthoum, Salim Halali, Asmahan.

“I never sing a cover song the same way I hear it,” Théko says.  She reinvents the song to bring a new brightness to the original.  After all, it’s the songs she falls in love with, she clarifies, not the singers.  She lends herself to trying new things which brings risk and amazing creativity.  She took a chance that night playing an arabic tribute song on djambé which she hadn’t been able to practice and nailed it nevertheless.

The front rows of the crowd semi-circled around her on the floor like children, listening to her stories with attentive eyes. Théko’s deep love for music lies in the connection it stimulates between the audience and especially with the other musicians.  On Saturday she played solo, but she often plays with other musicians.  Last year she met an Algerian singer and songwriter Sofiane Saidi http://www.sofianesaidi.com/ with whom she sang an Arabic song Taali, a powerful, heart-wrenching song which she sang on Saturday.  She also became enriched from her experiences in Lisbon where she met a bass/ double bass player and composer named Francesco Valente http://francescovalente.net/about/.  She even collaborates with her audience, inviting them to make bird sounds to accompany her music.

Théko’s music is hypnotizing, so much that when she declared it was her last song, everyone just stared at her before really realizing what she said, then clapping and encouraging her to play on.

In the future, Théko is looking forward to playing with more musicians, singing in more languages, and finding a home in a group which she already plans to simply name THéKO.  Right now, whoever she plays with is “vraiment random” and she doesn’t fancy planning life in advance.  She continues to attend jam sessions, meeting musicians and sharing special moments of music together which she describes as a secret universe around her that moves and a joy that she cannot live without.

Listen to an interview with THéKO on Beur FM:
https://soundcloud.com/theko-theko/th-ko-sur-beur-fm

Check out her music and Facebook:
https://soundcloud.com/theko-theko/sets/th-ko 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6WGCzTa1SE&list=PL1D8D997ED25CAF71
https://www.facebook.com/theko.paradjanova

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