A feast of music
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IAuriol Hays: Dreaming Music am often amazed at Auriol Hays’ comfortable eclecticism – the fact that she has this naughty velvety voice that belts smoky jazz numbers harking back to an era when lyrics meant something and scatting women ruled the roost, and yet she shuttles with ease among other genres, from rhythm and blues to blues proper, to House, to kwaito. She has the ability to astound. Sometimes she sneaks up on you, softly, gently, even on tiptoes, and then grabs you by the lapels of your coat and shakes the bejesus out of you, leaving you flustered.
Despite the obvious influence of the great belters and crooners of yesteryear, she is none of them. She is her unique self and hers is a very contemporary sound.
In her latest anthology, Dreaming Music, due out in February, she proves she is, above anything else, a storyteller. I call it an anthology because it is indeed a collection of poetry – narrative verse in melody and sometimes harmony. Coming in the wake of a deep House album, here she takes a different direction altogether. She calls this a “sanctuary” album, and that runs through the themes of the songs. Hence In My Lover’s Bed is an Auriol who can succumb to desire and yearn for the sanctuary that love can be.
This is no longer the defiant – some may even say angry – Auriol we have come to love. Here she proves she can still be lovable.
I love the subdued instrumentation throughout the album, predominantly strings, because it brings her voice to the fore – so that the voice speaks to you directly, unhindered, and makes you live and feel the experience narrated. For who among us has not gone through such yearnings, disappointments, solitude and melancholy? She pleads for the return of a lover in Come Home To Me. She threatens to bewitch her lover in When Worlds Collide. But not all the songs are about love.
The canvas of sanctuary is broader than that. It includes dreams, such as we find in Dream In Music, a dramatic and childlike piece that leaves you stunned when it comes to an abrupt end. Hollowness follows. The canvas extends to Story In My Pocket, which compels you to tap your feet as it tells the story of a man who betrayed his friend: “Choose your friends carefully, especially if you have money.” And then we have a powerful song about social justice titled When God Gets Back. This is the Auriol I have come to know and love, who cares about the world and the fate of humanity. Hence her participation as a private citizen in the cultivation of the culture of reading for the youth and in the protection of the environment through Greenpeace.
I was curious to hear how her cover of Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse’s Burn Out would compare. I think she gets away with it. She gives it a new twist and makes it her own.
The song that continues to haunt me is Child Atone, perhaps because of its resonance with the American Deep South of slavery and Uncle Tom, of tamed field hollers and ceremonial chants. It is a powerful duet with Roman Amit. Auriol’s blues vocals here could surely wake Ma Rainey from her grave.
Throughout this album, Auriol Hays is unmistakably Auriol Hays. Here is a unique voice that compels me to keep on wondering when the heck South Africa will wake up to it.
– Zakes Mda
SEVEN COLOURS OF SUNDAY