Auriol Hays

Awareness through music

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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