SONGSTRESS Shannon Hope was singing before she could talk, and playing piano soon after that. Now she's classically trained, critically acclaimed and coming to the Eastern Cape this January.
Hope's solo career began in 2009 following a lengthy stint in the wings of the South African rock scene. The move led to a riveting, piano-driven solo debut album, S T I L L.
She was finally at home with her sound. But it's not easy being talented in South Africa, she is another remarkable musician tiptoeing the line between security and obscurity.
"I have my dreams all packed up and ready, waiting for a miracle to come and find me," she sings on her second and latest album, Fight a New Day.
If miracles are in short supply, an obsessive work ethic will have to do.
Hope spent 10 months of last year on the road. And that's when she wasn't writing new material or heading up her own publishing company.
The Eastern Cape is among her favourite destinations.
"This will be my ninth tour to the province in three years," she said. "I love audiences there. They're always so attentive and laugh at my bad jokes."
Sense of humour aside, it is her songwriting that commands attention.
She can go from hauntingly quiet to crushingly loud at the drop of a hat. Her lyrics seem honest – even confessional.
"I write from personal experience," Hope said. "There is a lot about love and loss and moving on, but there's also a lot about believing in yourself and fighting for what you want."
An independent spirit is essential in this line of work.
"I'm self-managed and my albums are self-distributed," she said, adding that she hopes to be picked up by a major label in the near future.
It's unlikely her talent will be overlooked much longer.
In 2011 Hope received the Standard Bank Ovation Award from the National Arts Festival in recognition of "artistic innovation, excellence, the exploration of new performance styles and the courage to open new conversations in the arts".
"It's incredible to be recognised like that for doing something you love. I appreciate the credibility it gives me as a full-time performer," she said.
Hope will perform at Potter's Place in Jeffrey's Bay next Thursday, and at The Music Kitchen, Port Elizabeth on Friday January 25.
Both shows start at 8pm and entry is R50. Call (042) 293-2500 for J-Bay and (041) 364-1964 for PE.
She is also staging a picnic concert in East London on Sunday January 27.
The show is at the Murambi Country Kitchen in Sunrise on Sea at 3pm.
Entrance is R80 and you can bring a picnic or book a picnic hamper. Contact 084-600-5716 for more information.