Helena Hettema: Definitely Not Just A Singer

I remember the first time I heard the voice of Helena Hettema…

She was sitting behind me in the Spur in Grahamstown (July 1992).  She was very excited about performing at the National Arts Festival.  It was the place to be seen at, then.

It was only after the festival and in December that year that I had an opportunity to see her perform on stage for the first time.  The venue was a very popular curry restaurant in Observatory, Upstairs at Elaine’s.  The show was: “Piaf, Brel and just a little me”.

Her interpretation of the music of Edith Piaf and Jacques Brel was and still is, in my opinion, unmatched. I was blown away by the sound she projected and the passion and raw emotion with which she performs.

My great love for the performing arts and more specifically music has introduced me to many artists and I recall saying to her that night: “Sometimes in one’s life, you are very fortunate to stumble upon greatness. True, natural, talent. I have been blessed.”

Since then I have had the privilege to photograph many of Helena’s shows, on stage and behind the scenes and so decided to use some of the images for a project I was working on at the time – Heritage: The Art of Cabaret. (These photographs were on exhibition for a couple of weeks during the opening of the Cape Quarter Shopping Centre in De Waterkant, Cape Town – in November 2009.)

Helena Hettema remains one of the greatest voices of our time!  She is definitely not just a singer. Once you have heard her sing and forcefully have to close your mouth and lift your jaw from the floor, you will know exactly what I am writing about.

As her dad once said:  “May the nightingale sing forever!”