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Now Hear This: Fana Hues | Hues

I'm getting caught up on the good albums that have come out lately. Like this one.

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “When singer-songwriter Fana Hues was a child, illness took away her voice for almost five years. “I had scarlet fever, tonsillitis, and strep throat at the same time,” recalls the 25-year-old from Pasadena, about the years she spent yearning to sing — years her mother, a dancer and healer, spent concocting natural medicines and elixirs that would eventually restore her voice.

A challenging and humbling experience, Fana’s period of near voicelessness led her to appreciate the power of healing, and to realize her purpose as a musician at a young age. A student of R&B’s masterful vocalists Nina Simone, Dionne Warwick, Anita Baker, Beyonce Knowles and Mary J. Blige, and one of nine children, Fana was raised within a large musical family. Her father, a bass, guitar, and piano player, taught her and her sisters how to sing. “I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t learning harmonies,” Fana remembers, illustrating a home environment built to foster her passion. “Music is literally in the fabric of our family, and our bond as a family.”

Her family is also the inspiration behind the moniker Hues, named to reflect their surname Hughes, as well as Fana’s intention to be innovative in her approach. “I want to capture all the different shades of one idea,” she explains about bending and twisting R&B, and bringing elements of herself to the genre. Fana trained in violin lessons for eight years, and after inheriting a bass from her father, taught herself to play. In school, an English teacher encouraged her poetry and writing skills, and by the time she was a teen, Fana was writing her own songs. “It was one of my favorite things to do for a long time,” she says about trips to San Quentin State Prison, where she participated in writer’s workshops and emotional literacy programs with inmates as a part of a local community organization, Aim4TheHeart. It’s where Fana says she developed her voice as a songwriter, and rooted her musical practice in service to others.

Theatre has also been an important part of her life that has shaped her as a writer. “Theatre specifically calls for a more traditional and broader approach to conveying emotion,” Fana notes, “I was taught never to move without purpose in acting and I try to incorporate that in my writing, and in everything I do, really. To have intention behind every word I write or move I make, makes for a better artistic display.” More recently, Fana was cast in a musical biographical exploration of Elvis Presley’s early days. Fana shared, “I got to sing some of the blues and gospel songs he ‘borrowed’ from black artists, but being in the production, and repeating the same track every night for over nine months, allowed me to discover my voice in an entirely different way.”

Over the past five years, Fana has released a slew of demos, sporadically sharing old songs she says she just had lying around. Hence, her album Hues feels like her first real body of work. “When I was writing it, I was mourning a relationship,” Fana says about the meticulous, soul-stirring 10-track project. An expression of heartbreak and lost love, Hues unpacks and breaks down the stages of grief, in all its shades. Intuitive, powerhouse vocals run and repeat over entrancing, soulful production, cathartically etching the process of grief, which Fana describes as “denying the fact that it happened, turning it into shameful pettiness, self-reflection, re-grounding myself and acceptance, and then letting it go.”

The sonically sprawling collection of tracks weaves moody trances with funky bass lines and delicate strings, landing cohesively as a thorough reflection on the complexity of human emotion. “I thought it was super important for me as a black woman to be open about that because so many times I feel like I’m not allowed to express my emotions.” In Fana’s words, “I’m kind of all over the place, but there’s always a method to the madness; it’s all centered; it all has a purpose.”