I’d been too scared to sing since childhood – could I find my voice? – AuthenticAfrican

Posted on by Paula Cocozza

Nearly forty years after being told she was making a racket, Paula Cocozza decided it was time to confront the sound of silence

My singing voice is a part of my body that I have for years disowned. I was a child when I let it go. Of this moment I remember only the bright orange carpet of our lounge, the spiral rug. When someone remarked on my “racket”, I guess my head dropped and floor is all I saw. But as I was eight or nine, and I’m now 47, I can’t be sure. I know only this: in that moment, I shut my mouth to singing. For decades, scarcely a song seeped out.

All my life, I have tried to square the longing to sing with the fear of being heard. There have been times – as a teenager in love with a guitarist, for instance, and at my nan’s funeral – when I have yearned to join my voice with others’ voices. At birthday celebrations, I latch on to the handful of low notes familiar from speech, like finding a cluster of friends at a party of strangers, and skip every other word. My version goes: “Happy birthday … Happy birthday … Happy … Susan … you!” Karaoke was invented the year before I was born, but I have never tried it.

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