News / Africa

Singer Auriol Hays Molds Personal Torment into Brilliant Second Album

Darren Taylor
This is Part Three of a six-part series on South African Vocalists 
Continue to Parts:     1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6

Auriol Hays’ second record is a cascading blend of genres that include soul, jazz and blues, interpreted by one of the strongest voices to emerge on the South African music scene in many years.
 
The album is a rollercoaster ride of emotions and moods. It condemns deceit and pleas for peace. It’s faithless yet reverent, luminescent with the idea of falling in love and angry over its pitfalls.

Some songs are sinister, others offer playful swagger; some crackle with electronic menace, others are laden with industrial percussion and screeching effects; some are spare piano and acoustic guitar ballads that soothe and caress. One recalls the orchestral swell of some of the best work by Welsh diva Shirley Bassey; another is a tortured Portuguese lament.
 
The album is diverse but not disjointed, its many ingredients ultimately enhancing and uniting it.
 
Catharsis
 
The overall tone of Cape Town-based Hays’s new work, Call It Love: Anima Sola, is shaped by pain, loss and regret.

Auriol Hays’ second album is a mix of different musical styles and influences (Courtesy Auriol Hays)Auriol Hays’ second album is a mix of different musical styles and influences (Courtesy Auriol Hays)
x
Auriol Hays’ second album is a mix of different musical styles and influences (Courtesy Auriol Hays)
Auriol Hays’ second album is a mix of different musical styles and influences (Courtesy Auriol Hays)
She’s blunt when explaining its roots. “My marriage had just fallen apart, pretty much. Writing the music has been a way of dealing with all of that, and a way of healing,” she said.
 
The record’s title calls on Roman Catholic tradition. The Anima Sola, or Forsaken Soul, is an image of a woman suffering in purgatory, surrounded by flames. She’s shown in a dungeon, breaking free of her chains.

Hays is frank when she says her new album emerged from the end of her marriage (A. Hays)Hays is frank when she says her new album emerged from the end of her marriage (A. Hays)
x
Hays is frank when she says her new album emerged from the end of her marriage (A. Hays)
Hays is frank when she says her new album emerged from the end of her marriage (A. Hays)
The picture is particularly apt when applied to Hays’s album.
 
“I was in a space where there was absolutely no personal love when I wrote it,” she told VOA.
​Hays felt desolate, but her art saved her, she said. “The only place where I can find some kind of peace is when I write music because…music is like an oracle of thoughts,” she explained.
 
The singer said she allowed her personal agony to “infect” her music.
 
“Even as you are busy facing the end of a marriage, the end of a relationship, that pain and honesty…it’s beautiful; it’s delicious; you can revel in it and you can turn it into something magical!” she said.
 
Hays added, “I’ve sung my best when I’ve been at my saddest.”
 
For her, Call It Love was clearly cathartic.
 
“By the time I’m finished singing a song like “I sing the blues”…you feel so much lighter; you feel so much better,” she said. The track reflects on the loss of love. Hays sings in a stretched and strained voice, ‘This cage we’re in / The hurt, the sin / I don’t know where to begin / So I sing the blues / I sing the blues / When you’re around.’

Hays as she appears in the video of her song, ‘Better Man’ from her latest record (A. Hays)Hays as she appears in the video of her song, ‘Better Man’ from her latest record (A. Hays)
x
Hays as she appears in the video of her song, ‘Better Man’ from her latest record (A. Hays)
Hays as she appears in the video of her song, ‘Better Man’ from her latest record (A. Hays)
​The song, with its robotic rhythm, plunges the listener into what sounds like the bowels of a factory, a hot and harsh place where there is no love, only relentless toil; where people slave in service to a heartless metal machine.
 
No anesthetic
 
The record also jolts the listener with anger, disappointment and bitterness – probably most evident on the terrifying track “Devil woman,” during which Hays seethes through clenched teeth, ‘The devil is a woman / So slick and so sly…She’ll hide her claws / And her horns / Where no one can see / Until the time it becomes necessary,’ before tearing into the pulsating chorus, ‘Devil woman, devil woman / Take that smirk off your face / Devil woman, devil woman / Get the hell out of my place….’
 
The song is loaded with a bestial appetite for revenge. It’s one of the defining moments on Call It Love, its pounding, military-like drums being Hays’s chief allies in her declaration of war on the deceitful devil woman who has wronged her.

Another scene from the video of ‘Better Man’ (A. Hays)Another scene from the video of ‘Better Man’ (A. Hays)
x
Another scene from the video of ‘Better Man’ (A. Hays)
Another scene from the video of ‘Better Man’ (A. Hays)
Assessing some of the record’s fury, Hays said, “Anyone that’s ever loved that much and has had to see that fall apart – of course you’re angry, of course you’re bitter! And so I allow myself to feel that angry, to feel that hurt. I don’t want to anaesthetize myself because how I am I going to get through it if I don’t confront it? How?”
 
She’s also not afraid to confront her own frailties and failings, as she does on the gorgeous piano ballad “In love with the past,” in which she laments, ‘With everything I do / I betray you,’ and finally acknowledges that she’s not strong enough to bear any more pain.
 
Incongruence of love
 
Hays said the album’s dominant theme is “wrestling with love.” On the opener, “My love,” she warns against falling in love but in almost the same breath whispers, “For true love / There is nothing / I would not do.”
 
​In another song she immerses herself in a “sublime love” and on the sparkling, hymnal ballad “Time for love” – arguably her most accessible tune so far – she declares, “Let romance begin…. This is the start of something beautifully divine.”
 
In “Do I really have to say the words?” she states simply, “I love you.”
 
But then she plunges into the pain of love gone wrong in “I sing the blues” and “Over my shoulders,” where she sings “Better to run / I can’t stay here with you / Knowing I am not the one / You would turn to / On your darkest days.” And on “In love with the past,” she exclaims that she’s in love only with that – the past.
 
“Well, life isn’t black and white,” Hays said of the apparent incongruity. “Love is a multifaceted, complicated thing.”

Love is complicated and her music reflects that, says Auriol Hays (A. Hays)Love is complicated and her music reflects that, says Auriol Hays (A. Hays)
x
Love is complicated and her music reflects that, says Auriol Hays (A. Hays)
Love is complicated and her music reflects that, says Auriol Hays (A. Hays)
Then she acknowledged, “I don’t have the most balanced view on love…. I am constantly falling in and out of love, swinging between belief in love and complete mistrust and distrust of it, failing to distinguish between lust and love. Do you know how hard it is to distinguish between lust and love? It’s insane! It’s very, very hard! The one masquerades as the other brilliantly!”
 
But she hastily added, “Put two people who are in front of me who are in love – oh! You would hear me gush and I will sing my soul out for those two people if I know they are in the audience.”
 
Hays’s latest record may well be a testament to a period in her life when love abandoned her, but for many others it could signal the beginning of an enduring relationship with her music.
 
See Auriol Hays video of single ‘Better Man’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zlXp4Y2i_A

Listen to profile of South African vocalist Auriol Hays
Listen to profile of South African vocalist Auriol Haysi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

You May Like

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More