National Arts Festival Review

hot off the press

Written by Kgomotso Moncho

New kid on the block Shannon Hope walks up to the stage and lights a candle by her side, before settling into her chair behind the keyboard. At the back of the candle stand is a portrait that creates a visual factor.

It’s just after 3pm and this is her first Grahamstown showcase and the seventh gig of her 12-performance schedule before her national tour in October.

With barely 10 people in PJ’s Basement, she is determined to make this show a ritual of sorts, and she succeeds.

One does not see many female pianists and she’s refreshing. Her appeal is how she’s able to make the keys take on her personality which is somewhat temperamental, strong and self-assured.

What you see when you look at her is rock n roll, but what you hear when she plays is heart and soul. She calls her genre art pop because it is lyrically driven, making it more arty than pop. She plays classical to pop and complements that with her powerful voice.

Hope is a Durban girl and has been playing the piano since she was six years old. Growing up she was influenced by music that paints a beautiful picture of the world, she says. But her approach to music is where the romantic and the real collide.

Only a year into her solo career with her debut album Still, released independently last year April, she had a lot of interesting anecdotes to share.

“I quit my day job a year and a half ago and before that I used to be on Facebook all the time, telling my friends how bored I am. They told me to do something about it and I did. Now I’m here, I’m broke, but happier than I’ve ever been.”

Thereafter she performed a song inspired by the different status of her Facebook friends on one particular day.

It’s quite a challenge to fill the space with just piano and voice without sounding the same, so at times Hope works with a drummer and a guitarist in Cape Town. She admits that it’s costly to travel with a band so she manages herself and most of her performances are done solo, but there’s variety in the album with a cello and reggae sounds thrown in the mix.

Outside of Durban she’s already performed at places like Cube Café in Pretoria and Tanz Café in Joburg. She returns to Joburg on August 8 and heads to Cape Town in the second week of that month, before going nationwide in October. For details go to

She is heart and soul and she is onto something.


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© Shannon Hope 2017