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Sunday 26 May 2019
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Eko –all in the family

Sonja and Suraya Chase from the musical duo known as EKO are part of the Chase family.  Newsday highlighted the story of Judith, the mother; Siobhan, the sister and Sonja who graduated from the University of the West Indies (UWI) on the same day from the same faculty. The story was featured in Newsday on January 30.
Sonja and Suraya Chase from the musical duo known as EKO are part of the Chase family. Newsday highlighted the story of Judith, the mother; Siobhan, the sister and Sonja who graduated from the University of the West Indies (UWI) on the same day from the same faculty. The story was featured in Newsday on January 30.

THE Greek myth of Narcissus inspired the name of local band, Eko.

In the story, Narcissus falls in love with his own reflection after seeing himself in a river. He eventually pines away at the river’s edge. Echo, a nymph, falls in love with him but under a spell by Hera she can only repeat other people’s utterances. When the dying Narcissus calls "farewell" to his own image, Echo can only repeat the words — a final good-bye. In the place where Narcissus dies, a beautiful flower grows. All that is left of Echo after, is her voice.

For the Chase sisters, Sonja, 23, and Suraya, 24, the story moved them to name their band Eko because, they said, “if anything, even if we decide to not sing anymore, what we have given to the industry will remain.”

Sonja, Suraya, another sister Siobhan, and their mother Judith, were highlighted in Newsday’s January 30 article, Graduating with your mum. It related Sonja, Siobhan and Judith's academic successes and graduation from the University of the West Indies’ Faculty of Social Sciences on the same day, last year.

This achievement revealed Sonja and Suraya's journey in music, and their debut of Keep Calm for Carnival 2019 – leading them to the finals of the IShine soca competition on Friday at MovieTowne, Port of Spain.

The sisters, however, do not only sing soca but also have songs in jazz, gospel, reggae and even “an uplifting dancehall song.” They have been been surrounded by music all of their lives, Sonja, Suraya and their father, Cameron, shared with Newsday.

Sonja Chase of the singing duo, Eko. The duo hopes to record a lot more of the songs they’ve written this year.

Cameron said he grew up around a family who loved parang and music and continued the tradition with his children in their Arouca home.

"The cuatro would always come out when it was holiday time, or for my birthday on New Year’s Day...They grew up with that kind of music in the house and performing,” he said.

Parang found a place in Sonja's heart. She has been singing the Spanish-influenced music for seven years, and is an assistant bandleader and a lead vocalist with Los Sonidos.

Eko, however, is a passion she shares with Suraya and the family. Their soca song, Keep Calm, was written in 2012 and originated from '"keep calm" meme which grew out of a World War II message which trended on social media.

Suraya Chase, the other half of singing duo, Eko.

“It was flooding social media and we were at a family gathering and everybody else was inside. We were outside and we were bored and we were like why not write a song," Suraya said. “We were like 'write about what?' and somehow Keep Calm came up. So we started writing and it just kind of flowed and the message of the song became one of just a kind of solitude in a party.”

A demo was done that year but the decision to do a “mastered version” was only arrived at last year, even as Eko, the band, was formalised.

The idea behind doing the mastered version, the sisters said, was to “release the song and just see how well it did and hopefully get some gigs to perform it.”

But many of their friends, told them about the IShine competition and decided to enter. At their audition on January 12, they received four yeses from the three judges, Suraya said, laughing. IShine, Sonja added, gained them a lot of exposure.

“We had in our minds this was something we could do possibly for a long time after hearing the feedback from Keep Calm. It is only really last year that we decided we would be doing this. We came up with a plan,” Suraya said.

Speaking about Suraya's drive, Siobhan, a sister, said she was always very adamant about “not following the typical route in terms of her study and career and that sort of thing.”

“She made a point of stating that she wanted to have a career that was aligned with her passions. And this is part of her process,” said Siobhan.

But, Suraya said for a long time she was uncertain about what she wanted to do. She remembered having a passion for sports and so she felt that she was supposed to do “something along that line.”

So she studied physical education, with a focus on teaching, at Chowan University, North Carolina in the US. Before this, she explored a career in physiotherapy and even thought about sport psychology. But after her degree, she started teaching and realised she “really enjoyed it,” and had a passion for people, especially youths.

While music, acting and the performing arts were her other interests, Suraya said, “these are things when, we are younger, society teaches us that it supposed to be a hobby. That it is supposed to be extracurricular. Something you enjoy doing but not necessarily your mainstream job.”

Suraya never thought of music as a possible career, “until, literally, a few months ago.”

Sonja also shared the experience of being uncertain about what she wanted to do at one time. She knew she would end up singing, but a part of her was scared, she said, becoming a little emotional.

Sonja, Suraya highlighted, “was the one who was always into the singing from the time she was small. As I said I was more into sports. So I did not have time to explore even if I wanted to. So she did the music theory and did the vocal training and she started with the parang and all that.”

Even if it was not evident to Sonja that she would end up in the music industry, it was evident to those around her, Suraya said.

“Even though she is very amazing at it, she is very scared and very aware of what people would think,” she added.

Sonja began singing when she sang back-up for Suraya at Holy Saviour Anglican Primary School in Curepe. When Sonja moved to St Joseph Girls' RC, she participated in the school’s choir and also its choral speaking group.

But it was at Bishop Anstey High School East where she really started singing. Sonja was “offered the opportunity” by one of her friends to join a parang group but was not interested in it.

“I knew of it because of home. But I was like ‘who want to learn Spanish.’ Then I went and tried it out and I liked it. I sang background for the first year, that was in form three, and the next year they asked me to lead and that was how I fell in love with it,” Sonja said.

Sonja hopes to do more formal training in music – she attained up to grade five in practical and grade four in theory with a concentration in vocals. She plans to complete the training and get more involved in the business aspect of music.

Siobhan said Sonja pleasantly surprised the family with her role in developing Keep Calm as she “was willing to embark upon the journey of the promotion of the song and getting it out there and all that that required.”

Their father is proud of their achievements, which, he said, showed him that the sacrifices were not in vain.

His advice to young parents? Cameron said, “The advice I would give to young parents is not to try to determine for your children what they should do and what they should become. Just provide that guideline and support and they would make you proud.”

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