Cape Town-based multi-instrumentalist, Sarah Blake, creates music that makes you feel. Rooted in jazz, soul, blues, and folk, her quirky, charming, and disarming stage presence pulls you into magical worlds designed by elegant lyricism, a cloudy bed of harmony, and groovy bass lines. It’s aural ecstasy.
With inspiration from Esperanza Spalding, Lianne La Havas, Norah Jones, Tom Misch, Bruno Major, Emily King, and Cyrille Aimee, she weaves her voice through lyrics and scat solos alike, all the while effortlessly groovin’ on that double bass or guitar.
Growing up in a musical family, she played every Western instrument she could get her hands on. She only found her true love, the upright bass, halfway through her first year at the South African College of Music where she received her bachelor’s degree in Jazz Composition. Since then, she has performed as a side(wo)man for Manouche, Crimson House, Gerald Clark, Frank Paco, and Zolani Mahola, and has toured extensively throughout South Africa, Mozambique, Seychelles, Singapore, Europe, and America.
Her journey into releasing her own music started with the passing of her father in 2020. Diagnosed with urothelial cancer and given 10 months to live, it was a devastating blow to the whole family. During this time, Sarah channelled her emotions into her music, creating 3 songs at 3 specific times in her father’s journey: the before, the during, and the after. A deeply personal story that, in her eyes, needs to be shared with the world as a sign of solidarity for the millions of people who have, and are going, through the experience of losing a loved one.
Here’s what Sarah had to say about the project.
“It’s obvious that these 3 songs hold a lot of emotion. Each was written at very poignant times in my dad’s journey, and each is attached to a particular memory or moment in time. I feel quite lucky to have gone through something like this and had the outlet or ability to channel my memories, happy or sad, my frustration, my grief, through music. It’s been an incredible experience in every aspect of the word, and I’m nervous but excited to share this story with whoever wishes to listen.”
“Precious Time was written first, in November 2019. It all started when I was thinking about all of the things I liked to do with my dad, how we would hike, walk on the beach, go for beers down at our local brewery and just talk about so many different aspects of life.
I grew up watching my dad perform in big bands and I followed him around on tour, one day hoping to be on stage with him. We never got to be in a big band together, but he played with my old band, Manouche, at Up The Creek one year… memories I’ll never forget 🙂 It seemed appropriate to write something in a similar kind of style, and once I started writing, the rest just flowed. One thing that I really enjoy about jazz, or earlier jazz, is its simplicity: how one is able to say so much in so few words. It worked, and I was actually able to play this one for him as well, which was very special.”
“The Lullaby was written in the last week of his life. At this time we, as a family, spent a lot of time sitting with him in his room while he was either sleeping or awake but not really. It was a time of major uncertainty, as you never really knew when that last moment would happen. I also wanted peace for him, as anyone would really. So The Lullaby was constructed sitting on the floor, leaning against the glass window pane, thinking about how he doesn’t need to be scared of wherever he’s going because it will all be OK. Wherever he is will be great because he is there.
It was Jono Sweetman’s idea to bring in a bit of a backbeat to the tune. Up until then it was going to be a bit of a bossa-inspired vibe, but I really liked the groovy element it brought to the music, so I kept it. All the overlays were fun to do, as they added this other-worldly dimension to the climactic point in the tune without being too overpowering, still able to keep that ‘lullaby’ type nature…”
“Free was written at a time when I was angry: the music community of Cape Town had lost an incredible trumpet player, my mom was left without a partner to grow older with, that he was taken away so soon, and that he was just not ready to say goodbye. His death left a huge hole in my (and my mom’s) world, and it felt as if there was nothing that could make me feel the same kind of lively-ness I had as when he was around.
I sat in front of the couch, and I strummed the crap out of the guitar. I thought about all of the things that pissed me off and made me sad at the same time, how this urge to feel alive, do crazy stupid stuff, would make up for the loss and emptiness that was inside me (It’s hectic, yes, but losing someone you hold dear is not an easy thing. If it was, it wouldn’t feel so uncomfortable to talk about).
I wrote this song in 15 minutes. It was an outpouring of all the things I felt wrong with my situation at the time, and a release of so much frustration.”
BUY / STREAM – The Journey
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