“Cheza” (pronounced like “ch” in choose and “ez” in feza) is a Swahili word that means “to dance, to play.” Cheza’s music has been described as Afro-pop, “garage-soukous”, and folk-African fusion.
Cheza was formed in 1993 by singer-guitar player Paul Weber. Paul lived briefly in Senegal, west Africa where his interest in African music began. The search for others who shared his love of African styles led to the formation of Cheza. Band members include: Phil Bova (drums), Pat Giunta (guitar and vocals), Rob Graves (percussion), Stella Haybukhai (vocals), Neema Mugala (vocals), and Stuart Watkins (bass).
The music of Cheza is a blend of African styles with rock and folk influences — a new-world hybrid. The result is a collection of songs with strong choral harmonies and fluid inter-playing guitars, all unified by an irresistible dance beat. Song themes range from strong statements of the human spirit to Canadian history to hot spices. Lyrics are sung in English, French, Xhosa, Portuguese, Zulu and Swahili.
Nicholas Jennings, Toronto Eye:
Their music bubbles with the sparkling sound of soukous and swings to the buoyant beat of mbaqanga . . . Cheza can hold its own with any number of African based acts.
On stage Cheza provides an exciting live show, performing original songs arranged and written by band members. Cheza has travelled across Canada playing at venues such as the Winnipeg Folk Festival, the Montreal Jazz Festival, Afrofest in Toronto, and the Dawson City Music Festival. In 1999 Cheza was awarded the best World/Folk Act by the readers of the Ottawa Xpress. Cheza has also performed at showcases for North by Northeast and the Ontario Arts Council.
Jennifer Edwards, Artistic Director, Dawson City Music Festival:
Cheza’s world beat rhythms, thought provoking lyrics, and ability to work the crowd into a frenzied mass of flailing arms and legs, prove that this band has caught on to something unique.