Auriol Hays

Awareness through music

Archive for June, 2011

Lifeline

Elton John was right – sorry seems to be the hardest words. Now I am not a fan of his music but the man has a point. If we were actors or politicians life would be easier. We could say something completely rancid and get away with it – after making the necessary public apologies and shaking hands with the previously offended.

The philosopher Solon said “Put more trust in nobility of character than in an oath.” In other words don’t believe a damn thing people say! The biggest mistakes I ever made were when I ignored Solon’s advice. Now I pay attention to what people do or fail to do. Yes, I like to watch!

I am tired of people trying to be “good”. Hell, I have made good, bad and awful decisions. I have prejudices that I won’t apologize for. If I am to release myself of those prejudices I will do so on my own terms and when I am ready. There will be no handshaking going on anytime soon to appease others.

Call it Karma or the workings of the Universe, but we all get hurt and hurt others in turn.  Either way I don’t regret anything – especially not the “bad” decisions. They were my greatest teachers after all. The insights I gained I guard closely. They are “Tattooed across my heart….every letter bold and dark.”  Yes, Ben Harper sang that…in case you didn’t know

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Little Girl Blue

My daughter painted herself blue yesterday. When I asked her if she was inspired by the movie Avatar she replied, “Yes, but I fell asleep. It was a boring, long movie.” In other words it had nothing to do Avatar. She painted herself because she was bored. Man, I miss those days – when I did things for no good or bad reason but just for the experience!

I am only open to new experiences when it involves music, I realized. There is nothing better than working with a passionate musician and riding that energy…but that is where it stops! I hope, in time, to remedy that situation.  My daughter is a really cool kid and she reminds me (constantly) that I should have more fun. This is something I tend to forget. We all know there is nothing worse than someone who takes themselves too seriously.

Luckily the Universe/God/ (call her what you will) has other plans. She has no intention of allowing me to live in that little box. So she sends me people to ease me into new experiences. Through these friendships I have learnt to trust myself enough so I can be more spontaneous…to use the energy I reserve for my music and spread it out evenly in other parts of my life. I am convinced that I am here to master is the art of maintaining Balance. But dammit-all, it’s hard!

Yes, I need to have more fun but will do it in my own way. Hang out with friends, dance more and go back to Capoeira classes. I do not need to hang out in clubs or try to be seen. Dammit-all, I have a fantastic sister, a bar in my house and a cocktail book we need to work through!

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Spilling Faith

We all want things – a new job, more money or a lover or three. Over the last few years the gurus have “taught” us how to attain those things. Chant a bit here, visualize a bit there and voilà All you wanted is right there. What no one talks about is the responsibility that comes with having everything your heart desires….

I have always wanted to be a musician. It was and still is an obsessive thought. I wake up thinking, eating and breathing music. Once I had my record deal and could call myself a professional musician I encountered a whole host of new problems that I never thought I would have to deal with.

I suppose it’s the hypocrisy and narcissism that the entertainment industry is saddled with that bothers me most. Having a family and being a mother has always kept me grounded. Sure there have been occasions where I lost the plot… but I just couldn’t conceive that people could be that arrogant! Once I realized that I do not have to change for anyone life became easier. Darling, as Nina would say, you either like me or you don’t…

You will always come across people who challenge who you are or test your core beliefs. One of mine (that of humility) got tested for years on end. At first I would always yield…thinking “there is something I can learn from this”. That has now come to an end. You simply can’t allow people to walk all over you – no matter what industry you are in

Music has taught me many things. I have learnt to be less resistant to change when it presents itself.  There is a beauty that comes with music if you allow yourself to be open to its magic. When I step into a studio with musicians these days I always listen first. And not to the notes they are playing or singing – but to what they say and who they allow themselves to be around me. That is what matters most and informs the music. You have to know how to listen and when to speak….

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Waiting on a Sign

The Greek philosopher Aeschylus once said “The reward of suffering is experience.” I could be fashionable and disagree with him but I won’t. I will simply add this – it’s what we do with our experiences that matters.

The last few months brought “suffering” of a different kind. Life slowed down so much I feared I would never set foot on another stage. Just as I was about to throw all my toys out of my proverbial cot and curse the gods I remembered something; humans being have cycles of their own and all I have to do is find the meaning behind mine.

When winter came for me I did what most people do. I resisted, argued or denied what was in front of me. I wasted all my time and energy on people and on my favorite pastime: watching tv series. In my case spending hours watching the tv show Community was a more pleasurable option. But after a while winter became so unbearable that I had to reach for more blankets and that required opening my eyes….

“Happiness is a choice that requires effort at times”. Aeschylus was right. It’s easy to be happy when all’s right in your world. “Stop this or I will come to Cape Town and smack you” said one of my friends. It took a while for me to stop feeling sorry for myself, to be honest, but when I did winter had stopped being something I feared. Yes! I finally found meaning in my “suffering” and in time was rewarded. During those cold months I found everything I needed: a new band, new producers and arrangers and two confidants.

What matters most is “what you do with what you feel.” My future husband Ben Harper said that…in case you were wondering…

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Four Women

Whenever I feel uninspired or lazy Nina Simone gets me back on track. It’s not because she was a gifted singer. I dig her because she was unapologetic. Nina didn’t give a damn! She would sing, rant and rock up wearing whatever was in her closet. Oh, I wish I had such balls but we live in a different world…

 A world where musicians do everything but play music to get attention. Where a pretty face and plastic music is valued more. Unlike Nina I am not bitter about these things. Sure, it’s upsetting and every now and then I will let loose a few words. Then I retreat into my sanctum: family and friends. That’s what matters more. That’s what informs and fuels my music. The years before my music career taught me a valuable lesson. I have learnt to tune out what’s not relevant and hang on to the things that are.

 When she sang My Baby Just Cares for Me live at Montruex in 1984 she said “This song was popular in France with Chanel No 5 of which I have none of or the money either.” Later she uttered “I wish I was as wise then as I am now. I have suffered.” Whatever joy that song once had was not reflected in her face or in the music she played. She was defiant to the end.

What I admire most was that she put her soul into every song she sang. Even when she took to stage as high as a kite, her rendition of Morris Albert’s Feelings was sung with such empathy and delicacy. I plan on covering this track in one of my shows very soon. Even in her older age where she became so bitter, she was unapologetic. And being unapologetic at the start of her career could not have been easy.

Lena Horne, an iconic Black actress, retreated from Hollywood because of the politics of the day. Billy Holiday was just an addict who sang as rough as she had it. While Ella was always classy and made a success of her career despite the politics. When I think of these Four Woman I pull up all the socks I have. I have a great deal to be grateful for. Now let’s hope all the rehearsals and introspection pays off at the Grahamstown Festival in July…

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