I’ve never known Shannon Hope in a meaningful way although I’m sure we have some scars in the same places. In the Durban music scene, most of us were just trying to survive the fact that dreams never built reality.
But I was in awe of Ketamine, the band she fronted that got recorded by Smashing Pumpkin’s producer, Bjorn Thorsrud. I was there when he watched them perform in a crummy bar in Umhlanga. The resulting E.P. included ‘In the Shape of a Heart’, a contender for South Africa’s greatest alternate rock song (player at the bottom of this page – the finale will blow any rocker’s mind).
And, before that, I’d put their first non-album single, ‘Stay’, on my first double CD compilation, ‘Wicked Rock – Let Us Be Heard’. It’s appropriate to the tone of this blog that I just discovered that compilation, for which I made no money, has been stolen and is being sold online by unknown devils.
Ketamine faded like most South African rock bands faded. The only one I know that still exists is Deity’s Muse (whom I recently reviewed).
But at the age of 29, Shannon Hope discovered new strength to be a musician that would receive accolades yet battle to pay her rent. She changed her style and went travelling with a keyboard. That 2010, I was fortunate to host her in Knysna.
Three years later, she delivered her message about the irrationality of believing to TEDx in Cape Town. I’m referring to the Youtube video at the top of this page.
“I quit my day job, recorded an album, got in my car and started touring. Not because I was brave or inspired but because I’d realised I’d become a non-person.
I had got stuck in routine, commitment, responsibility and obligation. Not following my dream was easier, safer.
But I suddenly realised that if I didn’t do it now, I probably never would. The fear of that, of never being who you are, is more terrifying than any consequence of trying, or failing, or succeeding.
Fear is the construct of the imagination. It’s the rational process that we facilitate to explain our way out of things that are uncomfortable or challenging. It’s like our mind’s way of preparing us for battle. Just as you rationalise your way into fear, you rationalise our way out of it.
What i realised, looking back, is how I was able to jump in the first place. I used my fear as leverage. My fear of failure is outweighed by my fear of disappointing other people.
So I told everyone that i was recording an album and that i was going to do music full time. I made my dream intention public knowledge.
This abstract construct only exists when you decide it does. Just as a performer uses their stage fright or vulnerability as fuel for a performance, you can turn your fear into a driving force, instead of looking for excuses to drive non-action…
Not everyone can follow their dream but you should try.
This is everything that I want to be. I don’t care how hard it is. I can’t pretend that it doesn’t affect me, but I carry on because I have to. Because my brain says it’s who I am. Because I have no choice but to believe that I can. Because it is who I am.
I don’t know if Shannon won the main fight. I know she made a sophomore album and toured the UK. But 6 years has passed and she’s faded again. South Africa isn’t kind to to those who don’t pursue the masses. There’s so little culture for it. It’s incredibly frustrating to be talented yet poor.
But it’s the world I’ve lived in for 30 years so I have empathy and admiration for those like Shannon even though I’m helpless to change it… but not utterly, for I too believe in trying. It may be dimmed but surely the only thing keeping me going is hope.