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Reading between blues and boere baroque

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Luna-Paige, photo by Hannie du Plessis

If you’ve ever heard Luna Paige sing, you won’t forget her. She has one of those remark- able voices that leaves an imprint that lingers.

A local singer/songwriter, this plucky lass with the honey-drenched voice recently launched her latest album, Storielied. Using Afrikaans literature as her backdrop, and teaming up with hotshot guitarist Schalk Joubert, this is one for musical bookworms.

For many years, this Afrikaans performer has neglected her home language, preferring to write and perform in English, and her three albums to date have all been in the country’s lingua franca. But then she was asked to perform at Stellenbosch’s Woordfees using short stories and novels as reference for songs which is where the bug bit her.

“I liked the challenge,” she says. “It wasn’t my frame of reference, but it added the intrigue of finding a song in a story.”

She liked searching for her own stories hidden in those of other writers and knew that all of this, from either side, the writer and the songwriter, would be open for further interpretation.

Sometimes, something she read affected her, or jogged a memory which would then give her a way into a song. It wasn’t easy because for too long, her songwriting was done in a specific language and to switch your head can be tricky. But she did. Something she also liked was the fact that sometimes the songs would lead people into the books.

The choice was not an easy one, but she was driven by time restrictions as well when selecting books and writers. But play the album and it’s fascinating how Luna’s voice dominates. She has a quality that keeps you mesmerised and listening even if you don’t understand the language. Of course it’s better if you do, but the music tells its own story.

South Africa, she says, is a country of many nations with stories of aristocracy from the North, spices and women of allure from the East and those from here, this earth, have a particular rhythm, knowledge of the environment and scents of the continent, all of whom feature in her songs that unfold stories.

She ponders evolution and religion with Ingrid Winterbach, dreams of passion and romance with Andre P Brink, sings about the Koi as described by Elias Nel and dances until daybreak with the freed slaves in Raithby. She also takes an old song from the FAK and makes it her own and writes a few personal stories.

Music has not been an easy business for this determined troubadour, but she keeps coming back. Every once in a while, she steps out and spends a bit of time in a 9 to 5 job just to catch her breath, but even before anyone starts noticing, she’s back. The appealing thing about her is that the music always comes from a place of authenticity. She likes singers like Nick Cave, someone who grabs her by the gut and pulls her into the music.

The only thing she’s sad about with this album is that she can’t recreate the big sound on stage.

“It’s just too expensive to have so many musicians performing with you,” she says.

“It was a 13-piece orchestra that played for the album,” and you can hear that.

But what she loved was because of the quality of the musicians, people she knew well, the process was still an organic one. That’s what Luna is about. She wants to touch you in a way that will knock your socks off, but softly.

The packaged Storielied includes a DVD with a documentary of the show which is quite awesome, with musicians of amazing quality and Luna in full tilt as a bonus.

Her next project is a blues album (in English) and she has been performing with another blues artist, Gerald Clarke (also part of this show) whom she really enjoyed. “Our voices work together,” she says.

Collaboration is something she encourages and she’s also been working with songwriter Peter Mitchel, a comedian, which stretches the spectrum for her even further.

Luna is an unusual performer who has her own style. From blues to boere baroque, it’s all there and for those who enjoy gentle rhythm and blues, she has her own brand. If you get the writers and the songs, it’s an easy purchase, but even when not, the music works like a charm.


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