Red Robyn is sweet melancholy. Think the sedate self-reflectiveness of Tracy Chapman but with the added punch of today’s too-chill-to-be-stressed R&B.
Haunting is a fitting descriptor for much of her solo acoustic music, such as the dreamy ‘Inner Sun’ and utterly sublime ‘Marley’. But, when linked up with pianist, producer and fellow music-maker, Jaedon Daniel, there’s sparks of rootsy pop magic – check her latest single ‘Left Wing’ for a taste.
“I would describe my music as an exploration and expression of sound and emotion,” Robyn tells Fringe Frequency.
“I prefer to focus on the spirituality and healing forces of music and to let that mantra guide the content I produce. I believe in collaboration and freely exploring sound as a means to express current states of the world.”
“The fable tells that the red robin bird got its colour from Jesus’s blood. When he died, it supposedly sat on his head. I always related this with significant insignificance.” – Red Robyn
Robyn hails from Durban, South Africa.
“I come from a musical family where most of them play an instrument both professionally and leisurely,” she says.
Starting out in a church band when she was young, Robyn went on to study music and drama performance at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, where she met, and formed a band, with fellow musicians. She is also part of hip hop-jazz collective called Blvck Crystals.
As for her namesake, it comes from ancient tale about the bird: “The fable tells that the red robin bird got its colour from Jesus’s blood. When he died, it supposedly sat on his head. I always related this with significant insignificance. This concept has always resonated with me as an artist. I am not necessarily religious, but do believe in Jesus and connected with the story since my second name is Robyn.”
Basquiat, Sade, Erykah Badu and Kate Bush are some her influences. Not that you feel them immediately. There’s a wonderful airy calm to Robyn’s vocals akin to Jill Scott and the aforementioned Sade, as well as downtempo-soul group, King and Kelela.
What’s more, the changing music scene in her home city has had a positive impact she says: “So, far I have been privileged enough to be part of and witness a revolution in Durban. Where it was once an unheard-of occasion to have more than one gig a month, Durban now boasts several music venues with live music every week, as well as hosting international festivals, such as Zakifo and Interpret Durban.
“I have been privileged to experience a change in appreciation for live music and a growing underground scene of experimental music creating an interesting fusion of sound out of a diverse multicultural city.”
With almost two dozen tracks to her name and a new burst of musical appreciation in her home city, the stage looks set for this Robyn to truly take flight.
Group members: Red Robyn (Vocals, Guitar); Jaedon Daniel (Piano); Nick Pitman (Guitar); Byron Thambu ( Drums); Nokwanda Nkala (Sax).
- Inner Sun (Single, 2016)
- Marley (Single, 2016)
- Left Wing (Single, 2017)
File next to: Sade, Jill Scott, Andy Allo, Mega
Red Robyn’s latest single, ‘Left Wing’, is out now, and her first full-length album is due in October.
Image: Nicole Powell