She inspired South Africa's "Zoid Generation", mixes Afrikaans folktunes and Barack Obama and laments her rock-mum status. Meet Karen Zoid.
It is a cranky Karen Zoid who pitches up at the Oasis Beach Tower at mid-day sporting oversized sunglasses she is reluctant to remove. "Please, I'm not wearing any make-up," she tells the photographer. The singer had flown in to Dubai the night before with hubby Don Reinecke (also her lead guitar and co-writer on a number of her songs), son Ben and one of Ben's three rotating nannies.
"Please, could we just do a shoot and go?" she asks, doing a quick lipstick touch-up. Then she puts on a valiant smile in front of a piano – her black guitar left in a suite somewhere.
"My parents surprised me by flying in for the show, and I really want to spend some time with them."
Her economist father and actuary step-mum have been living in London for the past eight years. "I haven't seen them in six months. So I can't let the opportunity pass."
Zoid, the South African Music Awards' Best Female Solo Artist of the year and inspiration to the "Zoid Generation", is wrapping up a very successful year. "We're doing well," she says, both personally and musically. "We've been very busy.
"We've been on the road so much, I have no idea how my albums are doing."
Her first three albums, with the EMI label, all achieved gold status. Her fourth album, Postmodern World, is currently out, along with a children's album. "It's a radio programme for kids that adults can't hear — unless their children decide they can."
Zoid says she needs a break. "Some family time, and to relax before the end of year tour along the beaches and towns along South Africa's south coast."
Concerts in London and in America are on the cards, as is another in Dubai sometime next year. "And in between I'm trying to write." And somewhere in this mix she manages to write music for advertising and television.
A few hours later, a visibly more relaxed Zoid hangs around backstage while her band — Reinecke, bass guitarist Rixi Roman and drummer Marc Rausch — does a sound check.
She laments her rock mum status. "I think Ben is getting flu-ish. He's been very clingy today, and didn't want anyone else to pick him up. My left arm has taken some strain."
I've got a big house
Later on, she would hit the road again, in her songs, but for now she reminisces about her previous trips here. "The last time I was here, John Mayer was also on the bill for the Dubai Desert Rhythm Festival. I thought they had given me his room accidentally. The room was huge, bigger than my house — and I've got a big house!
"It was as if Don was on the other side of the bath, and you have to shout to be heard."
Other artists Zoid's shared a stage with include Katie Melua, Metallica, Seal, Collective Soul and Queen.
"I'm very grateful to my parents," she says. "People who are well-off can be quite stingy, so we learned to stretch our allowance. This has been good, as it instilled in me the right mindset regarding money.
"This background also drove me to make a success of music. With parents like mine, I had to make the music thing work, or I'd have had to find another job.
"It also helps having someone to approach for financial advice."
A discussion on Facebook — Zoid, who uses it mainly as a tool to keep contact with friends, was introduced to the social network by a fan who had created a fan page for her, and has a strong dislike for groups "without Facebook etiquette, who bombard their members with messages" — leads to her views on the world economic dilemma: "It's sad that all over the world it's the poor who get exploited. They're the ones who have to fork out the most for transportation, telecommunication... They get sucked into bad credit habits."
Then she veers onto the current political situation in her home country. "It's very dynamic at the moment. Things are happening, and we're finally becoming a true 'Rainbow Nation'.
"With people like [Helen] Zille [leader of the official opposition party] and [Mosiuoa] Lekota [former Minister of Defence and one of the leaders of the breakaway group] we're getting there."
Later on, she'd go even further when she covers an Afrikaans folktune and sings: "There comes Barack Obama", and, "Who's going to give me a president with more than a standard three and a song about a machine gun?"
Zoid would also invite the Turkish singer Kareema — who performed with Kamal Musallam, Zoid's opening act — to improvise on one of her songs, making for an unforgettable Maak Nie Regtig Saak Nie (Doesn't really matter) with the two vocal powerhouses going head-to-head in Afrikaans and Arabic.
She would mix up her hard rock numbers with softer ballads, a kwaito-infused tune and others with alternative influences.
She would sing about what comes naturally — "I don't have PMS, I'm just a natural b****" — and about Afrikaners being jolly.
Zoid would draw in the crowd with her transportation theme as she sings about taxi drivers (Taxi), the morning rush hour (Silver Bird), and being stuck on airplanes (Aeroplane Jane).
But that would happen later. For now, she is being summoned by Franco —"one of the best sound guys in South Africa" — whose voice rings over the as yet empty outdoor venue: "Karen Zoid. Karen Zoid to the stage, please. Karen Zoid to the stage."