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

Russia Names US NGO 'Undesirable'

Prosecutors determine activities of National Endowment for Democracy to be 'undesirable,' paving the way for it to be outlawed on Russian territory More

Erdogan Vows 'Anti-Terror' Campaign in Syria, Iraq

Erdogan expressed confidence the 'necessary steps' will be taken by NATO leaders, who will meet Tuesday at Turkey's request More

North Korea: 'No Interest at All' in Nuke Deal

Senior US envoy Sydney Seiler visits Beijing Tuesday for talks on how to revive the stalled six-party nuclear talks with North Korea More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs