Tecla's new album, out on March 19th, is called 'We Are the Lucky Ones'
(Courtesy of the artist)
“I was born for this,” says the singer, pianist, producer and DJ Tecla, as she sits at Soundcheck’s Steinway piano. The New York native explains that “la tecla,” which her dad shouted out at her birth a couple of decades ago, is Spanish for piano key. Despite the fact that her mother may have had other plans, name-wise, “Tecla” stuck -- “and that,” she says, “was it.”
There’s a lot more than a prescient name, though, to the story of Tecla. The daughter of Haitian and Italian immigrants, she’s drawn on a host of sonic traditions, from opera to Hatiain vodou chant and Edith Piaf, to create a sound that she calls Tropical Electronic Pop. Her second full-length album, We Are The Lucky Ones (out March 19th) is fierce, personal dance-pop with serious piano chops --and highly melodic and compelling vocal manipulation.
“We are the lucky ones, “ she sings on the opening notes of the album, “so don’t ever complain or forget where you came from.” And over the course of 10 songs Tecla explores personal identity and shared history, including that of her own family. “I would travel to Haiti with my mom every summer, and people didn't have shoes, couldn't go to school if they wanted to,” she says. So “I always want to pay homage to my ancestors and people who came before us -- they created this foundation for us.”
This comes up, too, in “Tragic Mulatto,” where she looks at her own heritage through the 19th and early 20th century trope of the same name -- and also through the lens of the iconic actress, singer and dancer Josephine Baker. In both cases, the so-called tragic mulatto is tightly in control of her image.
Throughout, Tecla also has a sense of play in her production. Synths weave to and fro, beats compel, and an 8-bit cameo cascades like an electronic waterfall. Her vocals are almost always effected -- with autotune, chorusing and other manipulation. But in spite of, or because of it, her voice -- and all of its twisting and re-shaping -- feels warm and organic throughout.
Above all, We Are The Lucky Ones is a celebration -- a shared one. "I'm psychic, I'm perfect, I'm worth it. Need some of my mantra?" she sings on "Fake Tears." "Believe in your own mantra."
Gretta joined Soundcheck in 2010, having spent several years as a freelance radio documentary producer. Her stories on birders, fishermen, nurses, performance artists and even the Yale Whiffenpoofs have aired on a variety of outlets, from WNYC's Studio 360 to APM's The Story. She holds a B.A. in American Studies from Brown University and studied radio production at The Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. She was a cellist in the rock band Cursive from 2001-2005.