A chat with Tracey-Lee Oliver of Supreme Divas

I love going along to the Bluberry Entertainment Studios (where Kurt Herman and Tima Reece have their base). It’s a place of calm and of discipline, and you just know magic is happening there, including the wonderful Lions anthem which Kurt wrote and performs in.  Magic was happening there on the day I went through too, as it was the first day of rehearsal for SUPREME DIVAS! If anyone can produce an event with big songs, these guys can.

Taking centre stage will be the insanely talented vocalists Tia Herman, Lelo Ramasimong, Tracey-Lee Oliver and Elizca Coetzer, with Marianthe Panas.

It’s another incredible collaboration between Joburg Theatre and The Colab Network and there are just four performances from 11 Aug 2016 to Sun 14 Aug 2016, so make your booking now by visiting Joburg Theatre or calling 0861 670 670.

Tracey-Lee Oliver, born and bred in Grabouw, has been on stage for many years as a session singer, the lead in musicals and as a casino singer. Recently, she ventured into musical comedy with the assistance of well-known stand-up comedian Jason Goliath. She’s also recently performed in The Voice in which she auditioned with ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, one of her father’s (who passed away four years ago)  favourite songs. It was also played at her parents’ wedding.

Please give me a background – you’re in singing and comedy and TV. What would you say is your background?

Definitely the singing. I started with singing in church and in school. When I was 25 I came up to Joburg. I’ve been here for like 10 years. I think I had a real hunger to kind of just explore what was outside of Grabouw (where I was born and raised) because I knew that wasn’t just it. I wanted to see the rest of the world. Cape Town have more independent plays and things than what we do up here. I feel like it’s a bit more commercial up here.

Would you say Afrikaans Idol was your introduction into the industry?

No, I did a reality show before that – in 2004 I did a reality show called Project Fame and it was on M-Net. There was only one season of it and it was a cross between Idol and Big Brother, because they had this concept of putting contestants in a house and putting 24 hour cameras on them. I actually made the top 5 in that one and did Afrikaans Idol in 2006. I think at the time I wasn’t actually as sure as I am now what it is that I want to contribute to the industry and to music, so I think it was just another opportunity to have exposure and reintroduce the people to who I was at the time. 

 

Do you prefer TV or live?

I’ve been very blessed to be able to get into the television scene. I’ve always been curious about TV, but definitely live performance, because it’s a bit more dangerous and risky but the payoff is immediate so you get an immediate response from the audience. And since doing my comedy, I think that has just taken me to another level based on my observation of how to read a crowd. It’s gotten me a bit better, because with comedy if they don’t laugh then that’s it. It’s over and then you have to deal with embarrassment.  Comedy is way more terrifying than singing.  Jason Goliath was the one that got me into comedy. We met and basically got along very well and he told me you’re actually a funny girl and you sing really well. I think you should do musical comedy and it worked for me because. I’d always done impressions and been the kind of kid who had entertained herself in her room. I didn’t really have any friends growing up. I think that was a choice that I made. Playing with kids wasn’t as stimulating as me sitting in the room and entertaining myself. I had one brother and a sister who are way older than me and I’m the baby of the family. Comedy is brutal but it’s the best pay off. When you hear that laughter from a joke that you came up with that’s the best.

Do you have a favourite out of the three things you’re doing?

Singing is the easiest, but I don’t know if I want to go with the easiest. I think I’m really finding my niche with the comedy. I get to do both – make people laugh and sing. It’s comedy and singing. I get the best of both.  My favourite comedian is from Durban – Celeste Ntuli. She is A-MAZING. She has this very heavy Zulu English accent which you really have to concentrate but she is my favourite female comedian.

It must be quite a demanding lifestyle. How do you stay disciplined and balanced, and fit?

Fit wise, I got it from my mom. My mom was very slim when she was my age. But not talking is one thing that I’ve been doing that I didn’t even realise was a discipline but whenever I’m not doing shows I stay at home and don’t talk the whole day. I’ll pick when I go out and hang out with friends.  Not singing or talking on the phone. Nothing. I’ll tell people to Whatsapp me. I’ve been doing it for a couple of years and I just thought I was being grumpy to be honest. But I realised it was my body saying to me shut up for two days so that you can preserve your voice. Our industry is very demanding in the sense of socialising. It’s also networking in a sense, and I know how taxing that can be on artists. Sometimes you can say no – sorry I have to chill or I won’t be able to make it. You don’t have to tell them more.  Rest is so important.  I call it spiritual management and intellectual management. It’s like you need to give your psyche a rest sometimes. As good as it is to be together and hang out together it’s also important to get your privacy and just recharge. People don’t do that any more.

What can we expect from Supreme Divas?

You can expect five very talented South African ladies who are going to blow your socks off and show you that we are absolutely and utterly on par with international acts. (or better than – PS) People are going to come out and hear and jam to their favourite tunes. And get up and dance. It’s going to be an awesome show and it’s great working with a very old friend of mine Llewellyn George who is the musical director. I’ve known him for ten years and now is the first time we get a chance to work together.

How did you become involved in the Supreme Divas show?

This is when you have great friends in the industry. I’ve known Collett Dawson for five years now since we did Knights of Music. She’s just the greatest warmest person and always the same. We just hit it off when we met and always liked each other. She sent me a message saying I need to meet with you urgently, and I was like ‘what’s going on?’ So I met with her and she asked me if I wanted to be a part of it. I didn’t even think twice about it. I know the quality shows that she puts on.

Is there anything else you’d like to get across in the interview?

You get four chances to come and watch the show and it’s going to be great value for money.

Catch Tracey-Lee in Supreme Divas 11 Aug 2016 to Sun 14 Aug 2016.  Make your booking now by visiting Joburg Theatre or calling 0861 670 670. For group bookings of 10 or more, please contact the theatre directly on (011) 877 6853/6815.

 

 

Tima Reece and Kurt Herman – Always and Forever

I always enjoy it so much when I meet entertainers with the passion and energy of Tima Reece (also known as Tia Herman) and Kurt Herman who will be performing with Timothy Moloi on 31 March to 3 April at Joburg Theatre in Always and Forever – a Tribute to Luther Vandross. Immediately as I walked into their studio in Bryanston I was struck by their dedication and professionalism in their approach to their work, which makes them perfect to perform alongside Timothy. They have both had long careers in the industry in their own right and together as an ensemble and it was fascinating to travel the road of their careers in South African music and entertainment with them.

How did you guys get into music as a career?

Tima: From a very young age my mom recognized that I had a talent for singing. When I was 9 she took me to the Market Theatre to participate in the Shell Road to Fame singing competition.  And I made it through to the regional finals and they invited me back to the gala final in Sun City for being the youngest competitor that year. And that was in 1989 and since then I’ve just been singing and writing, that’s where it started for me at the age of 9. At the age of 16 I again entered the Shell Road to Fame.

Kurt:      I was working at the production company that filmed that. I was the runner.

Tima:     Chris Ghelakis the CEO of Electromode Music happened to be watching TV that night and saw me and got us to sign a recording contract.  Then from there we started working on my debut album and I secured a recording contract with a company called Strictly Rhythm Records, a subsidiary of Warner Bros Music in New York in 2001. I flew over to New York and recorded my album there. Then Warner Bros liquidated them and that’s how the deal fell apart. I came back to SA and continued finishing the album here and we released in 2004.  Since the release of my album I’ve been participating in many different aspects of music. I’ve been a backing vocalist on Idols, a vocal arranger for the SAMAs and I am a vocal prodTima Reece 3ucer for The Voice. I’ve been nominated for two SAMAs as well.

Purchase the album on iTunes here

Kurt:      I did work for the post production company that was working on The Shell Road to Fame. I saw her on TV.

Tima:     It was the biggest national singing competition of its time.

Kurt:      It was a bit dodgy because I was like who’s that girl? She’s only 16, and I was like 27. But it worked out when we get older. I did see her on the TV and I always had that innate longing to do music and singing and it was in that job that I was a runner, when I was cleaning my boss’ car, I was singing to a song on the radio and David Kramer and Taliep Peterson were on their way to an edit and they overheard me and asked the sound engineer who I was and it was amazing because I’d just recorded my very first demo, and he played it to them and then they invited me to audition for their brand new show Kat and the Kings.  Six weeks later we were opening in Frankfurt and I did a three-year stint in Europe for Kat and the Kings. That was an amazing start to the industry. It was the right place and right time.

Did either of you do any studies? I think you were at UCT Kurt?

Kurt:      I was at UCT. I unfortunately couldn’t finish the course because I couldn’t afford to which is why I went to work for the post production facility in Cape Town.

You should have burned stuff.

Kurt: No, I respect that place too much. There’s too much greatness that’s come from that place.

And tKurt Hermanhen you’ve both been quite involved with Idols.

Kurt:      Yes. What happened was before the Idols thing, when I came back from Germany I was supposed to do a movie called Gangs and Dances with a guy called James Ryan. But it fell through and I was literally trying to learn a new skill while I was looking for opportunities. So I went to learn how to do sound production for a year and I entered a show called Coca Cola Popstars. It was my last attempt and we ended up winning. I went on to be in the group 101 and that’s when I got to meet Tima at her recording studio while I was recording for that album.

Were you given any support or guidance as to how to work together as a band?
I think that’s where it failed. That’s a large part of these kind of shows in general. Is that there was no psychologist which I would have assigned to them. It’s like when you win the lottery, family members from all over the place, and it’s amazing because our neighbor in Northcliff actually won the lottery and then five years later he was broke.

Tima:     No financial plTima Reeceanning, no advisory, nothing.

Kurt:      And it can cost you, both Tima and myself coming back from the States had to literally pick ourselves up and start again. And try and build our own brand. We know how long that takes. It took along time to build respect in the real industry.

Tima:     But we did it together and it seems to be paying off.

Kurt:      And that’s how we started working together and we’ve been singing in shows together and somehow people have affiliated our brand. Tima does her own thing as well but that’s how we got onto shows like Idols. And it’s hard work as well. These contestants complain about one song a week and we’re like guys sometimes we have to learn 30 songs in 3 days. So it’s like an average of 10 songs a day and you have to know it.

On to Always and Forever. I’ve chatted with Timothy before, he’s pretty awesome.

Both: Yes he is.

Kurt Herman 1What’s the experience like to be doing this – how did it come about for you guys?

Kurt: To be quite honest Llewellyn was a bit naughty. He divulged some information to us before we got the phone call, he was just too excited and couldn’t contain it. He was like guys expect a phone call from Timothy Moloi. I went to a party and they were talking about this Luther Vandross tribute for his 40th and he wants you guys to be a part of the show.

Tima: He was like – when he calls act surprised.

Kurt: So of course when Tim called we were like – oooh! But the process has been unbelievable. There are a lot of tribute shows out there, that we’ve heard a lot of like ABBA but to be a part of a Luther Vandross tribute show is something that’s so rare and special. It’s a labour of love from all of us just to collaborate with the Colab Network and also just to help Tim fulfill his 40th birthday and work with the fabulous band. It’s a very difficult genre to try and emulate. The music is so big. It’s very specific. But we loved the process. It’s really awesome.

Tima: And now we know what to expect, having done that one show already.

bluberry entertainmentYou’ve got your own production company as well. Tell me more about that.

Kurt: Yes. Myself and Tima started an entertainment company in 2007 called Bluberry Entertainment. It started off purely from us wanting to create an artist profile and website, just so that clients have reference to send to their clients. But then we started seeing people wanting to pay more and more attention to our production skill. So we started producing our own shows for Sun International, quite a large extent of that has run over a period of four years in SA and it travelled abroad in 2013 and in that time we brought Llewellyn on board as our partner. Our specialized skills combined ended up creating a product that was appealing to our market, not only album work but also production and TV. I was invited to produce the Vodacom CEO awards which was one of the biggest corporate events in SA. We’ve produced quite a few albums for quite a few artists. We’ve worked with the likes of Danny K. On the TV show side, we’ve produced everything from Miss South Africa, Castle Lite, Flying Fish, Revlon commercials. Even The Voice have asked us to be the vocal producers for the show. On the writing and lyrical and arrangement side and myself on the production side, the team just works really well.

Tima:     We are also part of the Lions Anthem.

Kurt:      And the Highway Heroes campaign for Regent Insurance. We created safety awareness for truck drivers on the roads to award drivers who have complied with safety with monetary values. Just to give an incentive to stay alert, stay sober.  And there was aTima Reece 2n event we did for UNISA that was broadcast to 63 countries around the world. It was myself and Tima and Vicky Sampson. It was choirs and quite intense. We had to produce all this original African music and then appear in the show as well.

Is there anything else you guys would like to get across?

We’re working on the new Tima Reece album. The DJ Eddie Zondi, just a few days before he died he played a Tima Reece song and said Tima Reece if you’re out there, please make some more music. So we’ve got this one song that we want to dedicate to him and his family.  And the original album has finally been placed on iTunes for the first time and the follow up album will be on there too. The first single release will come with the Luther launch at the end of this month.

You can follow Kurt and Tima on Facebook (Bluberry Entertainment) and Twitter

Here’s a taste of what you can expect to see at Always and Forever

Book now.
Always & Forever – A Tribute to Luther Vandross is on stage at Joburg Theatre for 4 concerts only from 31 March – 3 April.
Tickets are R150 – R250 and bookings through www.joburgtheatre.com or Webtickets or call 0861 670 670