News / Africa

    Singer Songwriter Shannon Hope Delivers Adult Pop Gem

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


    On stage, South African singer Shannon Hope is a feline presence, her lithe body accentuated by a tight, black satin dress, spiked onyx hair, glossed lips and red stilettos. She moves languidly behind her instrument of choice, an electric piano. But when she starts to sing, it’s apparent that she’s no purring pussycat.

    ​ Hope’s voice is powerful but pure, the perfect accompaniment to her personal songs that exude emotional turmoil but also, ultimately, the attainment of inner peace.
     
    The singer songwriter has worked with leading music producers and is part of a new wave of female vocal talent emerging from South Africa.
     
    The country’s critics are praising her second album, Fight a New Day, as a landmark recording in the adult contemporary pop category. It’s filled with tunes that veer from lush, sweeping melodies brushed with electric and acoustic guitar, cello and percussion to stark piano ballads.

    Shannon Hope: mixing musical power, purity and perfection (courtesy Shannon Hope)Shannon Hope: mixing musical power, purity and perfection (courtesy Shannon Hope)
    x
    Shannon Hope: mixing musical power, purity and perfection (courtesy Shannon Hope)
    Shannon Hope: mixing musical power, purity and perfection (courtesy Shannon Hope)
    Hope’s songs are tinged with the bitterness, anger and regret that often taint relationships, but they mostly soar above these emotions to reach a place of personal triumph.
     
    Serve the music
     
    Hope writes her songs using her favorite piano and is endorsed by the famous Japanese maker of the instruments, Kawai. “I’ve been playing the piano since I was six years old – 26 years, goodness gracious! For my entire life I’ve been sitting behind a piano. It’s who I am,” she told VOA.
    Shannon Hope ‘serving the music’ (Courtesy Shannon Hope)Shannon Hope ‘serving the music’ (Courtesy Shannon Hope)
    x
    Shannon Hope ‘serving the music’ (Courtesy Shannon Hope)
    Shannon Hope ‘serving the music’ (Courtesy Shannon Hope)
    ​The vocalist, who has performed at one of the world’s top concert venues, The Metro in Chicago, lives by the mantra, “Serve the music.”
     
    She decided on this while working with premier American music producer Bjorn Thorsrud, who’s produced Hollywood film scores and albums for famous rock and pop artists, including Smashing Pumpkins, Marianne Faithfull and Whitesnake.
     
    “That process taught me a lot about serving the song as opposed to serving my story. Bjorn taught me a lot about how to write lyrics, how to focus not on the personal story I’m trying to tell but on the story that serves the person who’s listening to it,” said Hope.
     
    Her soul-baring lyrics expose her. “My nakedness as an artist has become natural, but in the beginning it was very difficult. I think it took a little while for me to get used to the idea of sharing my story in such a personal way and dealing with the response to that. Now it doesn’t faze me at all, because it’s who I am. I don’t get nervous before shows. I have grown into who I want to be as an artist,” Hope said.

    Hope is respected for her highly emotional live performances (Courtesy Shannon Hope)Hope is respected for her highly emotional live performances (Courtesy Shannon Hope)
    x
    Hope is respected for her highly emotional live performances (Courtesy Shannon Hope)
    Hope is respected for her highly emotional live performances (Courtesy Shannon Hope)
    While her music is enjoyable, it’s not easy listening; its intensity demands a lot of the listener – in terms of the complexity and the lyrical and vocal heights she reaches.
     
    “I love the idea that my music moves people,” she said. “The idea that I can write music that affects people very deeply is just crazy. I love what I do, for that reason.”
     
    Living at maximum capacity


    Hope’s new album is named after one of its key tracks, “Fight a New Day.” She explained, “[That song] is about getting up every day despite what the day might hold and trying to be 100 percent, authentically you…and that’s what the [whole] album is about.”
     
    With lyrics like, “I’ve missed my heart the most / I’ve come out fighting / So I’m getting up again / To fight a new day / There’s just one thing / That I regret / The time I wasted on you / I’ve come out fighting.” Hope’s latest work is about moving on from a failed relationship and once again looking forward to life. But it’s much deeper than this, and is also a reflection of the human spirit’s ability to endure pain.
     
    “Believe” is the first single from the album. She wrote it three years ago, a week after she quit her “day job” at the corporation where she’d worked for more than a decade.
     
    “When I finally made the decision to give music the 100 percent chance that it deserved, and the time and courage that I think it deserves, that was a very powerful moment and a very powerful journey that followed,” Hope said.

    Hope in the studio, with fellow musicians … She’s worked with top music producers (Courtesy Shannon Hope)Hope in the studio, with fellow musicians … She’s worked with top music producers (Courtesy Shannon Hope)
    x
    Hope in the studio, with fellow musicians … She’s worked with top music producers (Courtesy Shannon Hope)
    Hope in the studio, with fellow musicians … She’s worked with top music producers (Courtesy Shannon Hope)
    Believeis a dynamic and forceful shout-out to people to have the passion and bravery to follow their dreams, as the singer herself has done in deciding to be a professional musician.
     
    She added, “I get to do this once, this life thing. So I want to make sure that I’m living it at maximum capacity and make sure that I’m having fun and doing what I really, really want to do, instead of wasting away at a desk, hating nine hours of my day.”
     
    “Believe” is beautifully bombastic, and almost orchestral, with a rousing chorus that’s characteristic of most tracks on Fight a New Day.
     
    Valuable hiatus
     
    However, Hope’s songs are not all bright and bouncy odes to optimism. Some are darkened by expressions of self-doubt, showing their creator hasn’t always had faith in herself.
     
    A few years ago, exhausted by the “constant fight” to establish herself, she took a hiatus from music.
     
    “Actually, I let myself give up,” she acknowledged. “I let myself believe that music didn’t really matter and that life would go on without it and that life would be easier just paying the bills by working a day job that I hated.”
     
    Hope said the break from music was important, because it allowed her to realize who she was and wanted to be. “I think before I was chasing a dream that I didn’t really understand,” she said. “Now I’m not able to buy a block of cheese sometimes but I am living my dream and I am having a whole lot of fun.”
     
    Angry song
     
    Hope has the ability to slow a tune down without turning it into a dirge. “The Liar” is an example.
    On her next album Hope plans to go completely acoustic (Courtesy Shannon Hope)On her next album Hope plans to go completely acoustic (Courtesy Shannon Hope)
    x
    On her next album Hope plans to go completely acoustic (Courtesy Shannon Hope)
    On her next album Hope plans to go completely acoustic (Courtesy Shannon Hope)
    “That is a song about the games that people play with each other, because they play with each other all the time. I think people think that they can get away with a lot more than they can,” she said.
     
    The lyrics of “The Liar” offer evidence that someone messed with Hope -- but didn’t escape unscathed. She opens the song with the words, “You’re not fooling anyone / You think your fake smiles / Can hide / What you’ve done / But you’re not fooling anyone / I’ve caught you out, my friend,” as an acoustic guitar whispers and her piano chimes in the background.
     
    “It’s probably one of my more angry songs on the album, actually, in a very subtle way,” she said. “But I don’t get very angry very often. I get sad and brokenhearted more than angry.”
     
    Cheeky and happy
     
    Arguably the strongest track on Fight a New Day is “Why I Bother,” which is enhanced by piano and guitars pounding out staccato notes as Hope sighs, “Oh / Why do I bother / There’s nothing new…Never knew how to communicate with you / There’s nothing there / No spark or flame….”
     
    She said, “I’m quite proud of that song. I love putting staccato strings in the background; it’s one of my favorite things to do, and I finally wrote a song that has that!”
     
    The lyrics of “Why I Bother” seem to convey defeat and surrender, but the songwriter insisted that the song’s “cheeky” rather than bitter. “It’s a slap-in-your-face kind of song. It’s kind of a ‘look at me now; I don’t actually need you’ kind of song,” said Hope.
     
    “Happy Song” elevates the vocalist’s playfulness to new heights. It’s a song that swells with accordion and military-like drums and wouldn’t be out of place in a beer garden in Munich at the height of the Oktoberfest.
     
    It was written in response to someone close to Hope. “He’s listened to a lot of the music that I’ve written for the last 20 years. And he kept saying to me, ‘Please write a happy song, Shannon; please write a happy song.’ So I did; I wrote this song called “Happy Song,” which is the most cynical song I could possibly think of writing!”
     
    Fight a New Day concludes with a ballad, “On Second Thought.” “It was kind of intentional to end the album with a song that says, ‘I’m fine,’” said Hope. “On Second Thoughtis about perspective and the idea that over time you realize that you weren’t as broken as you thought…or you change your mind; you grow up. They say that time heals. I think that time heals because it gives you perspective.”
     
    And that’s exactly what she has, as she looks forward to a future that’s uncertain, but in which she says she will refuse to forsake her dreams and desires for her music.
     
    “What I really want to do next is an acoustic album, because my music is a very different experience when you experience it just with piano and vocals, and I really want to capture that,” said Hope.

    Listen to profile of vocalist Shannon Hope
    Listen to profile of vocalist Shannon Hopei
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

    You May Like

    Russian-speaking Muslim Exiles Fear Possible Russia-Turkey Thaw

    Exiled from Russia as Islamic radicals and extremists, thousands found asylum in Turkey

    US Presidential Election Ends at Conventions for Territorial Citizens

    Citizens of US territories like Guam or Puerto Rico enjoy participation in US political process but are denied right to vote for president

    UN Syria Envoy: 'Devil Is in the Details' of Russian Aleppo Proposal

    UN uncertain about the possible humanitarian impact of Russian proposal to establish escape corridors in Aleppo

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora