I locked my car keys in the car twice, and always ahead of rehearsals. I have not slept properly in weeks and all my personal relationships took a bit of a hit. I was selfish with my time and energy…. because uhm…. I was opening for Ben Harper. And in my head all I heard was the music and how I would emote it with my body. I was not looking for perfection but I wanted to give my best. As he is my favorite musician in the known and unknown universe.
Mr Harper was not only a consummate professional but a generous human being with his time. When I started writing music I watched his online interviews. I wanted to discover and learn as much as I could. Therefore, I was deeply aware that I was not special in any way. This is how Ben Harper shows up in the world. With his guitar and voice ready and his being open to those around him.
His performance…where do I even start? Well, I am gonna be honest. I stepped out a few times during the Cape Town performance. I had no choice, allow me to explain please. The clarity of his voice, the way his fingers coaxed music from the wood and strings, the manner in which light bathed his body at certain crucial moments enhanced every note he sang, amplified every movement and sanctified his performance in ways I could not fathom. Dammit the fact that I used the term ‘sanctified’ is problematic I know. But how else to describe being in the presence of man who knows his music has the power of has to affect, yet is overcome with emotion whenever the reality of it comes knocking on his door. When even he is surprised by the beauty of it when others, The Soweto Gospel Choir, take his music into their own hands. I am rather certain Mr Harper would cringe at those words. The man has issues accepting compliments. It seems that Mr Harper has forgotten that we are all each other’s mirrors, reflecting the good, bad and ugly in each other. I caught a glimpse of who I could be when I saw his performance in Montreux in 2012 and it changed how I viewed my journey in music.
Then the realization that I waited 7 years to see him perform live hit. I now stood so close, was about to open for him in a few days. Hell, I had no choice but to dash outside and smoke a few cigarettes in the rain, while my afro slowly bloomed.
I informed Mr Harper about my almost 10 year social media campaign, where I would speak of his music or share dreams where he made a guest appearance. The fact that he did not bolt ( look I would have) was impressive. Then he turned and said, ‘Maybe you are the reason I am here…’ I laughed and thought Mr Harper was just being kind and all, nice chap that he is. Yet… Is this what happens when you call an experience into being, when you wish and pray for it, when your eyes are fixed on it even while you sleep? The desired experience moves towards you in its own time and says hey lady….I am gonna show you something amazing. I am gonna make it so blinding, so sublime you will never forget it. Just watch.
To make matters sweeter I was allowed to stand where the photographers do and watch Ben Harper command not only the crowds but the very gods to hear him! I stood there alone as his music moved through my body and while it did I was being asked the same question as I was in Montruex. What, Auriol, will you do now…with your voice, your life, your heart?
And so it’s more than just the music I am grateful for, but the reminder. To be honest Ben Harper, I don’t know what I will do next with my life, my voice and my heart. I doubt you even heard me sing and that is not even the point. I am so deeply moved that I was granted that moment .( Ps, thank you for singing The Power of the Gospel. My daughter made me cry when she played a bit of it on her guitar many years ago! ) Instead of obsessing about the fear this music industry can bring…all I now feel is great excitement and that’s more than enough for now. Thank you Ben Harper. Your performance was better than I imagined and you kinder than I would have guessed.