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 producer for The Voice. I’ve been nominated for two SAMAs as well.
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.
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.
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: 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.
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 an 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.