With a career spanning over 20 years, Yuri Da Cunha is a legend within the African Lusosphere.
Yuri is the man who created the smash hit ‘Y tjukutja’ through his original version titled ‘atchu tchutcha’, of which both songs are absolute smash hits.
Notice any similarities?
Yuri’s contributions to African music have not gone unnoticed; just last year, he won the prestigious AFRIMA award for best artist from Central Africa. Additionally, he has travelled all over the world to perform his music; something which is expected when you drop your first music album in 1999 and consistently continue to deliver quality music since then.
The Insyder caught up with Yuri for an interview, coinciding with the recording of his Coke Studio performance. He came through despite feeling unwell earlier in the morning, something for which I and the rest of the journalists were very grateful. He greeted me with such warmth and humility, taking the opportunity to practice on his English which seemed to be something at which he is working on.
Yuri has been paired with Nigerian singer Flavour, someone whom Yuri has described to be someone “very humble, with a lot of love and passion for his music. His style is similar to mine too, something that I really like”. He spoke of his happiness to see African people working together and also at the fact that music is rising above racial barriers and uniting us into one for the purpose of Africa creating something big.
The Angolan megastar is sharing the responsibility of representing Lusophone countries together with Lizha James and Neyma, both of Mozambique. “Music is very strong; my idol is Michael Jackson, and I don’t even perform in English and neither did he speak Portuguese”, he added enthusiastically.
For someone whose career began in 1993, things haven’t been easy for Yuri. His journey has been marred with difficulty of some extent.
“I was born in a village that goes by the name of Kwanza Sul. My father, who was also a musician, died there unfortunately. Because of the Civil War I had to move to Luanda (the capital city) at the age of 3. While there, I was always taken to places where I could do singing, and theatre. I didn’t come from a rich family, but spiritually we were very strong”, he says that with a smile while doing a physical gesture of strength. “When I started, I pursued a course in music, dance and theatre. They would hold singing contests in school, which I won. I would then go on to compete with the school at a National level, and we finished in second place. The awards were very small gifts, but they would make me very happy.
In 1993 I joined the biggest music school in Angola, and in ’94 I recorded a song called Amigo. In ’95 I won an award for best child musician and I also met the president of Angola in the same year, who helped me record my first song in Portugal.
In 2003 I linked up with my brother in law, a successful composer who goes by the name of Hay Inyweba. I recorded the song ‘Makumba’, which was the biggest song in my career up until that point; ever since then my career has been going up and up.
I have since recorded about 5 CDs since then, all of which have won awards in Angola. My proudest moment was being the first Angolan to win the AFRIMA award, and also when I won the MTV award for atchu tchutcha.”
We got so engaged into talking about his musical journey that we hardly realized when time was up. What was meant to be an interview with a fixed set of questions ended up being a discussion on the musical journey on Angola’s most celebrated artist, something for which I do not regret at all.
Yuri also revealed that he is planning to do a collaborative project with only African musicians, specifically Prince from Nigeria. He sounded very excited to collaborate with Flavour, which should be interesting given that they will break the language barrier between them and create a beautiful product.