”SHANNON’S FIGHTING FIT”Written by Garth Johnstone
THE RIDGE MAGAZINE, DECEMBER 2011
The Catalina Theatre was an appropriately Durban setting for Umhlanga-based Shannon Hope to launch her second album Fight A New Day, the follow up to her debut S T I L L, which spawned the hit Oh Boy and announced her as a genuine talent on the South African music scene. With twinkling harbour lights and a gathering of music aficionados to welcome her, the talented songstress held the audience spellbound with her tightly arranged and emotionally powerful pieces, as she premiered material from the new album as part of a national tour. On show were a mixture of new material from Fight A New Day and some of the old favourites that have helped raise Shannon’s profile over the past few years.
A Shannon Hope performance often starts and ends with the (electric) piano. This is a particularly strong point for the artist, and my eyes are invariably drawn to the measured, firm, yet delicate touches she displays with this instrument. A lot of styles are thrown in there, but musical excellence is the one constant (if I remember correctly, Shannon aced her music exams for voice and piano while at St Mary’s school) that drives her compositions along.
The voice is powerful, very powerful, and Shannon’s not afraid to show it off, constantly stretching her range and launching into powerful wails/roars/soulful pleas (I’m curiously reminded of the famous primal scream, trauma based psychotherapy in which repressed pain is resolved through dramatically reliving experiences. . . anyway, I’m sure that’s a huge stretch, but there are snaps, snarls and even wistful laughs thrown into the vocal performance). The Umhlanga-based artist says she’s enjoying performing in theatres these days. This is often when the emotion and honesty really takes off in her music, and looking around the theatre on the night of the Durban launch there were a good few misty eyes hanging on every word, spoken or sang.
While Shannon Hope often performs as a solo artist (due to cost, logistical constraints or artistic preference), she does also perform with a band, on occasion, and has used a full band on her new album Fight A New Day. For an artist who vigorously markets her own product and is extremely active on social networks and through her personal website shannonhope.co.za, songwriting is always going to be of vital importance. Let’s face it, when you’re on tour and it’s you, a piano and an audience, you have to have the material required to keep the crowd interested . . . or it’s going to be a case of Led Zeppelin II (again). While a second album has the habit of being rather tricky, from an artistic and marketing perspective, the material is strong, strong enough to grab the attention for a one-hour show, and I’m pleased to declare that the new album has some really powerful tracks on it. The title number Fight A New Day, Believe, which has been announced as the main single off the album, and I Want You stood out, as did the curious, Lily Allen-esque Happy Song. Just be prepared for an emotional journey. Shannon’s songs, while not necessarily sad, do tend to hit you where you feel it the most.
Talking about influences, I’m taking a wild guess here, but I’d guess Tori Amos, Alanis Morissette, Carole King and said Allen could be influences, but as with many top artists, Shannon’s got that something special, which makes her a little unique in the world of music. Check out the album, it’s available at all good record stores, or see the website: shannonhope.co.za
READ THE Q&A
Currently on a break from fulltime touring, Shannon Hope is utilising her other talents in digital creative spaces… but there will be another studio album, and some exclusive performances every now and then. It’s not over. It’s just different.