Emma van Heyn is a singer-songwriter from Somerset West, who matriculated from Parel Vallei High School in 2012. Her voice is paired with a balance of acoustic and electronic instrumentation, subtly making use of instrumental and vocal looping. This brings out the poly-tonal and rhythmic elements in her jazz/progressive pop originals.
Since the age of six, Emma has written and composed music. Known for her honest lyrics, complemented by quirky overtones, she creates songs that glorify fairness in unwanted situations. She made her stage debut at age seven at Spier Amphitheatre, performing in the production, Movies’ Greatest Music. This production also went to the KKNK in 2008.
Her debut performance as a solo artist was in 2010, when Imogen Heap requested her to sing one of her originals at her show at the Paul Cluver Amphitheatre.
This inspired Emma to further her songwriting, performing on the very same stage four years later, playing her first solo debut set at the Hope@PaulCluver Festival in 2014 under the auspices of the Thembalitsha Foundation.
Before Emma’s solo career took flight, she was the lead vocalist and songwriter of alternative rock band, Morning Ms Dednam.
They were a four-piece act, known for their jazz-funk infused music. She was also formerly part of electronic duo act, Emma + i, which was a collaboration with Helmut Meijer – where Emma wrote the songs and sang the music. Helmut produced these tracks, focusing on a deep house approach.
These vastly contrasting acts have helped mould Emma’s music into what it is today. Now, Emma produces her own music, with Uys Visser at Uys Visser Productions helping mix and co-producing these tracks.
“As long as I truly stick to the integrity of the song, I’ll have a truthful outcome in the end”, says Emma. Although it is not always easy to pinpoint her genre, her fifteen track debut album strives to create a versatile body of music that stays true to her main focus – the song. She places focus on themes such as female exploitation, the current state of the country, personal trauma, heartache and heartbreak.
Emma is currently finishing up her drama degree at Stellenbosch University, majoring in acting and physical theatre. This training has influenced her to enhance a theatrical element to her music and performance.
She directs and edits her own music videos, as she chooses to have a true documentary of her creative process.
Choral singing has inspired Emma’s vocal layering through the use of looping. She has sung in choirs such as the acclaimed Tygerberg Children’s Choir (2004-2008), and the University of Stellenbosch Choir (2014), which was crowned three times world champions at the World Choir Games that same year. She was also part of The Voice of Angels, that won a SAMA award for Best Classical Crossover Album in 2009.
“I will not call myself unique or something fresh, because that is the easiest form of promoting oneself. But, I can say this – I write for ears that want to listen,” says Emma.
* Her long-awaited debut album Asylum will be launched on Wednesday August 31, at the Drostdy Theatre, Stellenbosch, at 8.15pm, supported by her three-piece band, with Robin Molteno on guitar, Luke Verrezen, keys, cello and bass, and Lilavan Gangen, drums.
Tickets cost R80, available at firstname.lastname@example.org