||14 October 2012 07:00
Chantal Rutter Dros
|Show: ||Carte Blanche|
[Singing] Vicus Visser: "She taught me right from wrong... she taught me the Lord's Prayer."
Meet Vicus and Vincent Visser. Brothers living in Heiderdal, a typical South African township - separated from the Free State city of Bloemfontein by colour and economics.
In recent times, Vicus has made local headlines - thanks largely to his musical talent.
[Singing] Vicus: "She taught me how to share... she taught me the Lord's Prayer."
And who better to endorse this talent than DJ and Idols judge, Gareth Cliff, who has been involved in bringing Vicus to the South African front page.
Gareth Cliff (TV & Radio personality): "He has an appeal for screaming 13-year-old teenage girls, like Justin Bieber would, but he can quite easily make a table of 80-year-olds at a birthday partly feel like they're the most important women in the world."
Chantal Rutter Dros (Carte Blanche presenter): "Who would've thought that the young boy sitting on this very couch seven years ago strumming his guitar would get global music executives scrambling."
A neighbour recorded Vicus, aged ten, playing guitar and singing in his lounge. It spread around Heiderdal, until two years ago when it was posted on YouTube.
US industry executives had meanwhile seen the clip and evidently recognised an unusual talent - as seen in this appeal [on screen] posted on Facebook.
Omar Grant (Epic Records): "A&R for Epic records, Sony Music Entertainment. I'm contacting you because I need your help in trying to find a young man that we recently discovered on YouTube. He is about 10 or 12 years old and goes by the name of 'Vicus'. We believe his talent is amazing and we'd love to offer him a major label ecording deal."
Omar is a talent scout and, with a colleague, travelled to South Africa just to find Vicus. From that little tin room he shared with his brother in Heiderdal his life was about to change... which was a little ironic, because Vicus said he had to be forced into music in the first place.
Vicus Visser (Musician): "I wanted to play soccer, in fact (laughs). So my mother forced me. She said, 'You must sing,' because she heard me sing once. I was singing... while the family was singing I was singing in the background. From that moment on she wanted me to sing."
His older brother Vincent was more of a singer than Vicus.
Vincent Visser (Musician): "Vicus was a good soccer player and what happened [is] he didn't want anything to do with singing at that stage in his life. So what happened [is] I went to him and I asked him to just sing with me. And it was a big argument between him and me. He was: 'No, I'm not going to sing in front of people!'"
With no cinemas in Heiderdal, and the trip to the city too expensive, talent shows are an integral part of life in the township.
Vincent: "So my mom finally convinced him to sing with me at the talent show. So what happened was since that day we won every talent show as a duet."
The boys' mother - Elsie Peters - said she always knew that both of her sons had talent.
Elsie Peters: "I like that group Westlife and I told them, 'when I see you there like that... then I can die. I just want the Lord to save me to see you there on that stage, that high places, where the crowd it surrounds them'."
But Elsie's life hasn't always been filled with music and promise. The boys' father was a grounds man at the local stadium, and they lived on the premises. She said he drank too much and regularly abused her.
Elsie: "It was so difficult the last time that he closed up the doors that when I come from work I can't get in. And one Saturday afternoon Vincent asks me, 'Why are you coming back every time to this house? Why are we not moving away from this home?' And that day I make my decision, for me and for the children - and then I decided to divorce."
Vincent: "My father used to beat me, so that's why I got involved with fighting, gangs and smoking dagga..."
Gareth: "There was a lot of real hardship to endure and overcome and his family have been phenomenal, particularly his mother. But also his brother, who dropped out of school and went back to school so he could set the right example for Vicus."
Chantal: "It looks like you've got a really strong bond with your brother?"
Vicus: "Very strong. I consider him to be more than my brother... he is more my best friend. Although we argue a lot about music and stupid stuff like brothers do, but he's actually more than just my brother... he's my friend, he's more like a mentor."
Chantal: "I see you've got each other's tattoos on your arms?"
Vincent: "I've got his name here [on arm]. That's to remind me that I share my passion for music with him always."
Meanwhile the American talent scouts' search for Vicus had proved fruitless. They wrote to Gareth Cliff, asking for his help in locating him.
Gareth: "We put it out on Facebook and Twitter and I did something on the radio show too, on 5fm, and we just said if anybody knows anything about this guy, please get hold of us."
The hunt for the young boy was gathering pace... as recalled by Bloemfontein OFM DJ, Eric Snyders.
Eric Snyders (Radio personality): "I saw a tweet from Gareth; he was looking for some singing sensation. So there was a link to some video attached to that particular tweet. So I went on it, and I was like, 'Hey, I know this boy'."
Two days later, local tabloid the "Daily Sun" picked up on the search and ran it as a front page story. Gareth had meanwhile asked his manager and business partner, Rina Broomberg, to get involved. She said it was a media circus and that, once it was known that they had found Vicus, they were inundated with offers.
Rina Broomberg (Manager: Gareth Cliff): "We got from Atlantic, Universal, from Sony International... There were people who wanted to get him onto the Ellen DeGeneres Show and Oprah, and it was just too overwhelming. "
Vicus: "It was just crazy at my house. I just met people like I've never met people before, with a lot of cameras... people want to shoot you. It's MTV, then it's Sony, then it's this guy and his record label, then it's newspapers, it's magazine offerings."
Eric: "The first guy that had come from Sony, he sort of isolated Vicus from everyone else."
Eric knew the boys from the Heiderdal talent shows and was worried about the hype surrounding them. So when he was contacted by Rina, he pleaded with her to fly down.
Gareth: "Eric begged Rina. He said, 'Listen, what's the price of a plane ticket?' She said, 'I don't know... R3 000?' He said, 'What's the price of somebody's life?' And she got on the plane immediately."
Rina: "I wasn't sure if this was the star the world was looking for, but I definitely saw the potential."
Elsie: "Gareth phoned me. He said, 'Rina is coming to you Elsie, but you can trust that lady with your whole life.'" 16
Gareth: "You know, Rina has also been a social worker in her previous life. So she understood something of the psychology of this problem, and that all of this attention could've been extremely detrimental to a 17-year-old who's perhaps not used to terribly much, and now suddenly here's the world's attention."
Remembering that they had actually located Vicus for the American talent scouts, Gareth says they immediately told them that they'd found him.
Gareth: "If they'd come here, then I think we could've struck a deal and Vicus would have been on his way to recording in New York, but as it turns out they sent contracts and things."
Rina: "We suddenly became concerned about this kid being exploited."
They'd originally only known Vicus as a young boy on a YouTube video. Gareth said their priority became the wellbeing of this now accomplished 17-year-old.
Gareth: "The question of his education... that we needed to resolve, before we started talking about business or contracts or deals."
Chantal: "It must've been so confusing for you to know who to trust when you've got a deal in the US on one hand, and being mentored and guided in South Africa on the other. How did you make that decision?"
Vicus: "To get the opportunity to go straight from here to there... being a star... is a very big thing, you know. I think I read the contract about four or five times before I made this decision. I saw it's more than just this contract: if I sign this now I'm signing my life away or signing my career here."
With Elsie's blessing Rina moved Vicus, Vincent and their sister to Johannesburg. With home-schooling and recording now top of the agenda, Rina secured a promotion deal with long-time friend and legendary music promoter, David Gresham, who says Vicus has a distinguishing factor.
David Gresham (Music promoter): "As a person, and the strength of personality, he has it. And that's probably what gets him to the top of the ladder eventually."
The job for David's team is now to teach Vicus how to work in a studio, where he will develop his own style. And just maybe record that hit.
David: "Hopefully we can record a track that will create enough interest for someone to say, 'Hey, wow! Who is this?' "
Whatever happens, for everyone involved, the story of Vicus has been monumental.
Chantal: "In your experience as an Idols judge, is there anyone who has this type of talent?"
Gareth: "I'm going to get into so much trouble, but no. Vicus knew Idols existed, but didn't want to go on it. He didn't want to be with everybody else. I think he knew deep down inside that there was something that set him apart."
Elsie " 'Proud' is not the word. If there's a better word for 'proud'... I'm the proudest mother in this whole south Africa now."
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:While every attempt has been made to ensure this transcript or summary is accurate, Carte Blanche or its agents cannot be held liable for any claims arising out of inaccuracies caused by human error or electronic fault. This transcript was typed from a transcription recording unit and not from an original script, so due to the possibility of mishearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, errors cannot be ruled out.