Amira Willighagen is only nine years old but her extraordinary talent and achievements prove she is not just your average kid.
Fresh from winning 2013’s Holland’s Got Talent (Holland’s version of the talent show America’s Got Talent), Amira was in South Africa for about a week, doing performances and singing at the opening of children’s playgrounds in Ikageng, going to interviews and most importantly, visiting family in Kempton Park and Potchefstroom.
The talented singer wowed learners at Van Riebeeck Park Primary School on Thursday last week when she performed two arias for them.
Her uncle, Dawid Brand, who is Amira’s mother’s brother, is part of the school governing body and organised for her to perform for the children.
The audience was so impressed they asked for her to perform one more song for them.
Amira, whose favourite artists are Luciano Pavarotti, Maria Callas and Cecilia Bartoli, wanted to start singing because her 11-year-old brother Fincent plays the violin and she also wanted to do something.
“And since I don’t like playing any instruments, I decided to sing instead,” Amira says.
What’s even more amazing about this incredibly gifted little girl is that all she knows about opera singing is self-taught.
“She didn’t have a teacher when she first started singing. She and her brother would search the internet and find videos of voice artists Amira enjoyed. She would listen and sing from those videos and songs,” Amira’s mother, Frieda, said.
Fincent, who has a perfect pitch (which means he can listen to a note and he’ll know exactly what it is), also helps Amira a lot when it comes to singing and getting keys, notes and melodies correct.
Although there were many opportunities to enter competitions back home, Amira was not really interested in them because a lot required the singers to perform popular music and her love really is classical opera music.
“So when she felt she was ready, we entered her into the Holland’s Got Talent competition,” Frieda said.
After both impressing and shocking the judges of the show, and captivating the hearts of the audience nationwide, this little girl went on to win Holland’s Got Talent 2014.
“Winning the show was amazing as we didn’t expect her to win at all. We knew of course that because of her talent, she would do well and people would enjoy listening to her, but we really didn’t think she would go on to win.”
What stunned the judges even more was the fact that Amira hadnt had any previous training for her voice; she didn’t even do music at school or with a private tutor.
“We just had to get her a voice trainer for the recording of the album, which she only had five weeks to put together and record,” Amira mother said.
The album will consist of all of Amira’s favourite arias and voice pieces from a variety of artists’ classical compositions.
As small as she is, Amira says she does not get nervous at all when it is time to get onto a big stage and belt her heart out in front of thousands of people.
So far, Amira has been to several interviews, including Jacaranda FM, and has even wowed Tlokwe Mayor Maphetle Maphetle in the North West.
But she was mainly in the country to perform at the Starlight Classic concert in Cape Town, which was on show from 28 February to 1 March, 2014.
Amira was also at Ikageng township in Potchefstroom, where she helped sponsor the building of playgrounds for the children there.
“My sister (Frieda) had taken Amira and her brother to Ikageng township while they were visiting our family in Potchefstroom a few years ago and Amira was touched by the fact that in Holland, the children there have playgrounds, but not the ones in Ikageng. So she made it a point that one day, she wanted to do something about it,” Dawid Braam, Amira’s uncle, said.
Amira also sang for the community members at the opening of the playgrounds.
The love for classical music comes from a heavy influence Amira got from home, where her parents would play classical music all the time. Even though she does not want to play any instruments, she is interested in learning the accordion, which her father plays.
She and her brother practice together at home, each doing what they do best, the one exquisitely playing the violin and the other beautifully singing along.
Frieda, who is originally from Kempton Park, moved to the Netherlands in 1995 to work as au pair. After meeting her now husband there, she made the decision to settle permanently.
At school, Amira is a bright and sociable girl who enjoys participating in sports such as athletics.
“She always jokes that one day she wants to sing the opening song at the Olympics and then go on to compete in the games,” Amira’s mother laughed.
And with talent and determination like hers, what will stop her from setting a record of a person singing and participating in the Olympics at the same time?
(article door Nolwazi Dhlamini/LookLocal)