News / Arts & Entertainment

    Lucy Kruger's Unique Voice Celebrates Love of Music

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

    Like most critics, South Africa’s are never lost for words. But now they’re struggling to describe one of the freshest voices to emerge on the country’s indie rock scene in recent years.
     
    The representation that appears to have resonated most was in a recent issue of the South African edition of Rolling Stone magazine. It said Lucy Kruger’s voice hovers somewhere between those of celebrated English songstress Kate Bush and Irish chanteuse Dolores O’ Riordan, of hit-making 1990s pop outfit, The Cranberries.

    Lucy Kruger has one of the most unique voices yet to emerge from South Africa (Courtsy Lucy Kruger)Lucy Kruger has one of the most unique voices yet to emerge from South Africa (Courtsy Lucy Kruger)
    x
    Lucy Kruger has one of the most unique voices yet to emerge from South Africa (Courtsy Lucy Kruger)
    Lucy Kruger has one of the most unique voices yet to emerge from South Africa (Courtsy Lucy Kruger)
    “If I’m going to be compared, those are the kind of artists I want to be compared to. What I like about them is that they are difficult to define as singers,” Kruger told VOA. “If it’s difficult to categorize my voice, then it means I’m occupying a space that’s not pop and not completely rock or grunge. So not being able to describe my voice is actually a great compliment.”  
     
    Both Bush and O’ Riordan have a high-pitched quavering timbre in their voices that instantly sets them apart from other female rock and pop vocalists. Bush especially transcends these music genres to such a degree that she often veers into classical operatic territory.
     
    Kruger also has a distinctive, eclectic voice that’s mature beyond her 23 years. It has an ethereal quality and rings to the point where it’s almost an instrument of its own.  
     
    “I’ve just always sounded like this. When I was a kid I wanted to go to vocal training but my mother told me I’m not allowed to because it would ruin any uniqueness that I had, and now I’m very grateful to her because she was probably right,” said the songwriting singer and guitarist.
    Kruger studied music at university but is emphatic that making pop and rock music cannot be learned. “I actually just learnt the rules of music to be able to break them,” she said.
     
    She’s convinced that her true musical education happened when she was a little girl, when she, her siblings and her parents would gather together to listen to recordings such as Joni Mitchell’s Blue.
     
    She described hearing one particular track from the Canadian singer and songwriter, “A case of you,” as the “definitive moment” when she decided to try to be a professional musician.
     
    Sense of wonder
     
    Kruger’s debut album is called Cut Those Strings, a line from one of its tracks. She explained, “I thought it was a nice title for a debut album, for someone just starting a career in music, embarking on a radical new, brave adventure.”

    Kruger’s music, like her, possesses an ethereal quality (Courtesy Lucy Kruger)Kruger’s music, like her, possesses an ethereal quality (Courtesy Lucy Kruger)
    x
    Kruger’s music, like her, possesses an ethereal quality (Courtesy Lucy Kruger)
    Kruger’s music, like her, possesses an ethereal quality (Courtesy Lucy Kruger)
    Courageous the work certainly is, and it’s a strong testament to Kruger’s individuality. In a parody of others who sacrifice their integrity on the altar of acceptance, she sings, “Dance, dance little puppet / To the rhythm of the shallow heartbeat / And remember / It’s catchy phrases that sell….”
     
    Cut Those Strings is largely an album of infectious pop hooks, sunny choruses and double-tracked vocals with a warm ambience. It’s uplifting and happy, and its creator often embarks on a gentle stroll to ponder her place in the world. “Lying on the grass / Staring up at the moon / I want to question the universe / And everything in between / Is it black or white / Or a shifting shade of grey?” Kruger sings gently.
     
    In her songs beautiful dreamers are encouraged to continue on their righteous paths, and cynicism is rejected with contempt. Most tracks are endowed with a sense of wonder and innocent, simple messages – which isn’t surprising given that they were largely written when Kruger was still a schoolgirl and during her early years at university.
     
    She sings, “Isn’t it true / That we’ll know what we know…We’ll go where we go / I’ve learned / That we’ll see what we see / So let’s not worry / And let’s just be.”
     
    Honest music
     
    Kruger’s first record is optimistic, even naïve. But it does at times steer into darker, rougher waters.
     
    On one track she employs an Australian didgeridoo – a long, cylindrical, wooden wind instrument – that clouds the song with an ominous, eerie drone, as an acoustic guitar is picked almost classically and Kruger sings in a pristine tone, “Will I leave this place / With my heart in a suitcase…. I wrote you words / They were selfish….”

    Lucy Kruger has vowed to maintain the integrity of her work (Courtesy Lucy Kruger)Lucy Kruger has vowed to maintain the integrity of her work (Courtesy Lucy Kruger)
    x
    Lucy Kruger has vowed to maintain the integrity of her work (Courtesy Lucy Kruger)
    Lucy Kruger has vowed to maintain the integrity of her work (Courtesy Lucy Kruger)
    She is willing to experiment with her voice, distorting it through a fuzz box, making it almost psychedelic, moving away from pop exuberance and into the realm of rock.
     
    The singer acknowledged that she feels uncomfortable with her music being branded indie rock. “It’s been very difficult for me to put myself in that particular genre because before I recorded the album I played solo acoustic stuff, and so I guess I was more in the singer/songwriter genre than anything else, with more of a folk-based style, although the writing wasn’t completely folk,” she said.
     
    Kruger said she doesn’t write and perform music to fit into a bracket.
     
    “I’m not too stressed about what people hear in my music,” she said. “I do think that what’s happening with regard to my music is that there’s an honesty about it that hasn’t been forced. When I started writing when I was 16, I wasn’t writing for an industry, I was writing because I was playing guitar and I loved singing. And I try to stick to that.”
     
    She was quick to add, “But is true that the album has gone more towards a slightly rockier sound, but it’s not hardcore rock. Given that indie is short for ‘independent music,’ I suppose it’s an appropriate label because that’s what I am doing at the moment.”
     
    Writing songs paramount
     
    “Four white walls” is the album’s first single and it is undeniably pop music. With its catchy chorus of “Four white walls / you’re too small…. Four white walls / I need more / But I am stuck here to this floor….” It’s a great pop song that’s receiving airplay on radio stations across South Africa.
    Kruger characterizes her music as ‘communication of feeling’ (Courtesy Lucy Kruger)Kruger characterizes her music as ‘communication of feeling’ (Courtesy Lucy Kruger)
    x
    Kruger characterizes her music as ‘communication of feeling’ (Courtesy Lucy Kruger)
    Kruger characterizes her music as ‘communication of feeling’ (Courtesy Lucy Kruger)
    Kruger explained, “I wrote that in my third year of university. Every year I moved house. I was sitting in an empty room when I wrote it. I had taken down all the paintings and so on from the walls. It was an empty space where I felt a sense of memory that wasn’t quite there. It’s about wanting more and feeling trapped by a system. That’s where that song comes from.”
     
    She insisted that writing songs is the most important process in the making of her music. “I get very excited when I write new songs. I don’t think it’s escapism necessarily for me; it just feels comfortable and right. It’s a thing that makes me feel like me.”
     
    Kruger added that song writing is also “scary” because it makes her feel vulnerable.
     
    “It’s quite a revealing thing. You’re sharing stories that you wouldn’t necessarily [normally share]. People would probably be uncomfortable if you told those kind stories in a public forum, but somehow to music it resonates with people a lot easier.”
     
    And “communication of feeling” is what Kruger said she’ll continue to love, no matter the vagaries of the music industry, and no matter how large or small her audiences become.  
     
    “I trust my product, I believe in my music,” she said.

    Listen to profile of South African vocalist Lucy Kruger (Darren Taylor)
    Listen to profile of South African vocalist Lucy Kruger (Darren Taylor)i
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

    You May Like

    Wife of IS Leader Charged in Death of US Hostage

    Suspect allegedly admitted to being responsible for American aid worker Kayla Mueller, who officials say was sexually abused and ‘owned’ by one IS member

    Year of the Monkey Could Prove Economic Balancing Act for China

    China is up against a tricky situation on the financial front, facing the need to fight capital flight while also stopping a further slide of foreign currency reserves

    Runners Attempt 26-mile South Pole Marathon in Sub-Zero Temperatures

    How alluring is running 26.2 miles at 10,000 feet when it’s minus 31 Celsius out?

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.

    New in Music Alley

    Beyond Category: Arturo Sandovali
    || 0:00:00
    ...  
     
    X
    February 02, 2016 3:53 PM
    Cuban-born trumpeter Arturo Sandoval is one of the most exciting musicians in jazz. The multi-Grammy winner takes the Blues Alley stage to perform, and sits down with Beyond Category host Eric Felten to talk about his life in music.

    Cuban-born trumpeter Arturo Sandoval is one of the most exciting musicians in jazz. The multi-Grammy winner takes the Blues Alley stage to perform, and sits down with Beyond Category host Eric Felten to talk about his life in music.