I plan to write new music in the desert

I plan to write new music in the desert

I plan to write new music in the desert

avtor 8. februarja, 2022

In Conversation with amazing women … Auriol Hays
a singer & a musical storyteller from the motherland – South Africa 

When we understand ourselves a bit better and embrace all of who we are, the good, bad and ugly … our hearts expand.”  Ms. Hays

Life is just so much more interesting when your journey is filled with amazing people. Auriol Hays is one of these amazing people, a dear friend who I talk nonsense with, most of the time, but we talk about deep stuff and life in general as well.. A woman, a mother, a crazy soul, a storyteller, a singer, and a food enthusiast – well, that’s if others cook for her. 😊

Music is how we originally connected, friendship is why we are still connected. Ubuntu is the bond that binds us.

Who is Auriol Hays or Ms. Hays as I call her?

Auriol Hays at Ben Harper’s Concert

Auriol Hays is a well-known South African musician, with an incredibly captivating voice, five albums under her belt, her music has been played in various South African series and movies. She has been nominated among others for the South African Music Awards and the Mbokdo Women in Jazz, she has performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and, an international award-winning Indi film The Book of Mikey found her unique sound a perfect match.

My conversation with Auriol is a spontaneous one, a chat with a friend about the meaning of life, the state of our minds, about her love for music, her definition of Ubuntu (South African Philosophy), and her next adventure. Her dream was to meet the international star Ben Harper and the universe granted her wish, actually not only has she met Ben Harper, but she was also the one that opened for him the concert in Pretoria, South Africa.

Balance in all things is what she strives for

Did I read somewhere that music used to be your obsession. Is that still the case?

Auriol Hays is a bundle of energy

To be honest, I think a bit of obsession in the morning and perhaps late at night is not a bad thing, especially when it involves what one is most passionate about. As, it creates discipline, a work ethic of sorts. I wrote a new song every day for three years so that I could navigate my way around writing songs. Now that I am more comfortable composing music and performing, the idea of maintaining balance in every aspect of my life is what drives me. I love Music, yes, but in order to live a more meaningful life (and I uncovered this the hard way), I cannot place all my energy there alone. If I was still so obsessed with Music alone, the pandemic would have poisoned my spirit. But I had a great network of friends and family, a love for adventures of every kind (even going shopping during the pandemic became an adventure of sorts and I would dress up for it!). Balance in all things is what I strive for.

When you say “to live a more meaningful life”……what would be your definition of a meaningful life…?

I had to ask myself the following question: what would I do if the one thing I love doing most was no longer there? For the longest time, my idea of happiness centered around Music. And Music alone, the milestones I could reach, the performances staged, ideas for the next song I wanted to write. Luckily, these thoughts filtered through my mind before the pandemic hit! I consciously made changes in my life and placed the people I love in the spotlight instead. I focused on being present. In short, enjoying myself as much as I can regardless of who I am with. It just so happened that I found myself around people I love and care for.  I found great meaning in small moments of unexpected joy, as opposed to spending each moment hoping to reach for the “big guns”. I decided what meaning to ascribe to experiences. Journaling every day helped clarify my thinking. Ironically, by not focusing on “the love of my life” (music), I wrote more prolifically than ever before.

For Ms. Hays curiosity is pivotal

Tell me about personal transformation or evolution. Do we change, do we grow? Some people like to keep the status quo, some like to evolve…which works better for you?

Auriol Hays: Curiosity adds zest to our live. Photo: Henry Dillon at The Crayon Room

I have a small little test of sorts. I ask myself the following questions:

Am I still creating the same kind of music as I did a year ago? Are the performances on stage still the same or have I elevated my game? Hell, am I hanging with the same kinds of people, eating the same food, having the same kind of sex? If the answer is yes….then I am in trouble. Look, humans are built to evolve. And central to that notion is the idea of curiosity.  If one ceases being curious, or the child inside dies, that spells trouble! And I am one curious person. My favorite phrase is Yes! Let’s go! I have met such wonderful people, visited surprising places, and along the way….picked up great ideas for songs and staged different kinds of performances.

I agree with your statement about curiosity – I would say it adds zest to our life. What are you currently curious about? What is adding that spice to your life?

Most certainly not cooking! Even though I love watching cooking shows. I am curious about the people in my life and the new ones making their grand entrance! Also, I am deeply curious about what drives them. Be it art, politics, books, or their various love interests. I wake up in the morning with two thoughts: I am so grateful for everything! And….come on universe…do it. Surprise me! And the universe always delivers. Perhaps I am learning how to lower my walls….and  just breathe. I do love a good book, and cannot be trusted in a library or second-hand book shop in general. I might never leave! There is something deeply satisfying when one runs one’s fingers along the spine of a book. I  could look at the titles of the books alone and be inspired to write new music.

She does not depend on others to feel good

Who or what makes you happy or makes you feel good?

When I attended Afrika Burn in 2019, a friend named Kevin gave me the best bit of advice. But first I must set the scene. Afrika Burn is similar to Burning Man in America. Saying I was overwhelmed by the space, the art, the music, and the people is an understatement. Kevin  looked at me when I seemed a bit lost and said, “Auriol, you are the party!” Kevin has since passed, but his words never left me. I do not depend on others to make me feel good or to entertain me. I do that for myself, thereby ensuring I always have a great time, regardless of where I am or with whom. The best bit of advice ever!

Mistakes are sins only when she writes music

Society always tries “to box us in “with definitions and give us a set of rules to live by. Definitions like “sinner”….Tell me, are you a sinner, or do you just make mistakes? 

Auriol Hays: Now I am gentler with myself

I used to hate making the same mistakes. Now I am gentler with myself….and try my best to make new mistakes. More exciting ones if I can. As it is a measure of new experiences and people entering my life.  Mistakes are only sins when I write music! Only because it rolls off my tongue when I sing it!  Please allow me to step in here…..what’s the process like for you when you write music? Is it a cathartic moment where everything just flows out or?…… Does the beat come first or do the words come out first and then you combine it all together?

If I am lucky the music presents itself as a download. This does not happen often but when it does it’s fantastic! I carry a notebook with me at all times. For those unexpected moments when someone utters something either deeply profound or really cool! At other times a melody will anchor itself to me, causing me to dash to the piano and write. Even then I haul out all my notebooks so those odd phrases can find a home in one of my songs. I find it easier working with other musicians. The collaborative process is always surprising. I have a philosophy and it goes something like this.  When other musicians or producers work on my music, all I ask is that they bring their flavour, their style to the music and forget mine. This allows all of us to chill out and breathe. Generally, when I work with others, a new song will be penned in under an hour.

Let’s go back to the set rules of life and conditioning….

Yes, we are all conditioned, by our families, culture, country. 2020 forced us to dismantle our boxes of beliefs. Some people lost their marbles absolutely, and perhaps that was needed. Growing up or evolving means (at least to me) choosing consciously what one believes. Making that decision alone and living with the consequences thereof. The idea of living by someone else’s rules would kill me and almost did.  

Almost killed you? What happened?

.…the usual….heartbreak! Loving someone stupidly. Foolishly.  In short, being a delusional idiot! Luckily, great music was the end result…

She advocates balance

Good/bad – darkness/light – angels /demons …..do you think we all need to have a bit of both to go through this journey but we just need to know how to manage it?

Auriol Hays: Definitions of “good” or “bad” shift over time

We live in a polarity universe. A place of great contrast. Definitions such as ‘ Good’ and “Bad” shifted over time, this we are aware of. Still, there is yin and yang, polar opposites.  It helps to be aware but not to get trapped by them either. Hence I advocate balance, the golden mean if you will. Or as stated in the good or bad book, “This too shall pass” the good and the bad. But if I maintain my balance regardless of where I find myself on that spectrum, I am more capable of dealing with whatever comes my way….the good or the bad.

Going back to your music career. What has been your highlight or given you goosebumps?

Oh, that’s easy. Seeing Ben Harper perform live while being in the pit where the photographers stand. He is one of my favorite musicians and I learned a great deal about songwriting by listening to his music. Yet, his actual performance was better than I could have imagined. Performing with my band, The Saints, during 2021, our first proper performance was very needed. My band are musicians of the highest order….and I am only as good as those who are at my side.

About ubuntu – she says it is a concept we were all born with but we were conditioned out of

Ubuntu is a philosophy, a way of living that I believe we should all strive to live by, as it teaches about sharing, caring, respect, and humility. Please share with us your thoughts on this philosophy.

Auriol Hays carries the ubuntu power within her gentle heart

The last few years solidified within me was a small truth I always suspected.  There is warmth and joy within the tribe.  Especially if each individual knows themselves, their flaws, and talents. And they are willing to share the best of who they are, their warmth with those who need it. While being brave and vulnerable enough to admit their faults. It sounds like some new-age madness doesn’t it? Swish your wand, say a few magic words, and everything changes. Yet, I saw it all. I was a witness to the acts of bravery, big and small by friends and family.

“I am because we are -is the definition of Ubuntu. A concept everyone was born with but we were conditioned out of.

I will never forget a moment at Afrika Burn when we had to decide if two rather odd people would join our camp. Said David, ” Auriol, they are a bit lost, but we aren’t. So don’t  you think they would be safer with us?” And I had the deciding vote on the matter. How could I disagree after what David said eh? They stayed and in the end, we became friends.  Strange how the world works eh? We learn to be kinder and gentler in the oddest of circumstances.

“When we understand ourselves a bit better and embrace all of who we are, the good, bad and ugly….our hearts expand. It makes every moment from where we are….towards wherever we are heading a more peaceful journey. Less fraught with anxiety and self-doubt.

Perhaps….all we need to remember is that we are hardwired to share, to love. As best we can. With whoever is at our side. It matters not if we fail to meet some grandiose standards we set for ourselves or conversely accept from the outside. It only matters that we tried…and in that luminous moment…we gave the best we could. It only matters that we wake up knowing we will try our best to love harder, to be kinder. Despite the fear, the risks, the anxiety… I am content. Even if conditions are not ideal. I can finally breathe.

Awareness through music

In our conversations, we talked about the song you have written and performed for Greenpeace, but more recently you have been sharing with me about being an ambassador for an Alzheimer’s institution. How has this experience changed you?

Being an ambassador for The Living Cornerstone Alzheimer’s Residence (TLC) has been life-altering. Allow me to explain….I found myself in a small town, broken and lost. A friend advised me not to waste time feeling sorry for myself but to offer my time and services instead.  That’s how Gilda Schammel, the founding member of TLC Alzheimer’s Homes, found me or we found each other. I knew nothing of the neurological disorder but she arranged I  train with her caregivers.

There are many reasons why  Alzheimer’s is so near to my heart. But first, a candid confession: I had serious Daddy issues!  Being involved with TLC Alzheimer’s Homes changed the relationship I had with my elderly father. Our relationship was always rocky and rather terrible in places.  Gilda made me realize that my father cannot change as he is so set in his ways, but I could….and did.  Only when he died in June 2020 did an epiphany hit me – in the last few years of his life the father I got was the father I always needed. The one who made my favourite soup when I came home, regardless of the weather. The one who would fix anything broken. Or helped me with lyrics to songs! When he died I felt no regrets, only deep appreciation for the man who loved me as best as he could.

Alzheimer’s constantly reminds one: the only moment that matters is Now. Many family members suffer because they are unable to let go of who their loved one once was. Gilda’s husband died four years ago….and in the end, he had no idea who I was either. I am grateful for every moment spent with Doug and my father.  I try my best to help wherever I can. And if my music can be used as a means to create awareness – even better.  Hence the song A Million Years, written by Lionel Bastos, one of South Africa’s most prolific songwriters, the minute he played the song to me I simply had to sing it. After all, that’s what I have inked on my skin. My tattoo states clearly – Awareness Through Music.

So many adventures await us

Can you share your next adventure, if there is any?

Auriol hays is opening her heart to love

Oh, I plan to fall insanely in love sometime this year. As to such fine points and specifics as… with whom or where or how? That I am leaving up to the gods. One has to enjoy the mystery of being alive after all!

As far as music is concerned, I will be in the Karoo desert to work on a specialized musical project, called Before I Close My Eyes. I am one of 12 artists, local and international, chosen for the Tankwa Artscape Residency. This allows us the space to work in a conducive environment while interacting with artists who practice in very different fields. I am very fortunate in that I am being sponsored by Bothners Music for the use of a keyboard during the residency. We have a very old piano at home that I play badly. But I know of so many musicians who sold their instruments! They had no choice. Some lost their homes or worse still, their minds! I plan on writing new music in the desert.

All I can do is take whatever comes….and enjoy every bit of where I am. All I can do is make sure my truths are small enough to hold on to…

Auriol Hays

Other inspiring stories in the series … in Conversation with amazing women … are Jeannette on the future of tourism, and Nicole on her uncionventional and inspiring year.


Navdihni.me/Inspire.me is edited and issued by Insights d.o.o., družba za odkrivanje in razvoj potencialov

Photography : Auriol’s private collection of photos and Henry Dillon at The Crayon Room


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