HELENA HETTEMA CURRICULUM VITAE
Helena Hettema, actress, singer, established and award-winning cabaret artist, songwriter and voiceover artist, was born in Pretoria and attended Pretoria High School for Girls where she directed the winning house play in her matric year.
She received a BA Drama from the University of Pretoria and was then chosen in her final year from among drama students countrywide to join the PACT Drama Company (Pretoria State Theatre) playing in productions such as “The Story of an African Farm”, “Ek wag op die Kaptein”, “Macbeth” and as a young actress, working with directors such as Dieter Reible, Alwyn Swart and Billy Egan. As freelancer later, she worked under Anthony Wilson for PREPAC (Eersterust drama company) in “Of Mice and Men” and “Macbeth” and appeared as the Duchess Turomel in Stefan Bouwer’s TV production of “Arme Moordenaar”.
She also sang the theme tune of the TV series, “Dot en Kie” and wrote and sang the lyrics for the popular TV series, “Sonkring” written and directed by Jan Scholtz.
She appeared in the musicals “Pirates of Penzance” (Civic Jhb) and “Sunrise City” (Market Theatre) and staged her first one-man cabaret of her own original music in “Free Spirits” and “Dream Scream Carousel” for PACT’s Windybrow Theatre Festival and appeared in “The Victorian Songbook” countrywide, directed by Doug Thistlewhite. A highlight of 1989/90 was becoming the youngest member of Anton Goosen’s forward- looking alternative band, “Die Kommissie van Ondersoek” (also with Lucas Maree) which amalgamated Afrikaans and African lyrics for the disc “Winde van Verandering” released in 1990. Highlights were performing at the Jacaranda Festival, Houtstok and touring the Cape. Helena also formed two bands: Triple Fair and Golden Fleece performing at festivals among others at the National Arts Festival , Grahamstown and the Whale of a Festival, Hermanus.
As solo artist she appeared on two occasions with the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra singing the music of Piaf and Brel under the batons of Gerard Korsten and Alan Stephenson respectively. Another highlight was playing the role of Alma Mahler opposite Jonathan Rands (Mahler) and Jana Cilliers (The Muse) in the Mario Schiess production of “Die Kindertotenlieder” (Roodepoort Civic). In 2009 Helena was the opening act for Skouspel at the Sun City Superbowl for Senwes in duet with Tiaan Kotze van Ses Snare and a DVD of the song in English, Afrikaans, French and Dutch shot for SABC 2./
Helena has received numerous awards, the top one being a Laureate Award from her alma mater, the University of Pretoria in 2007 for excellence in her field. Other nominations and awards include: Checkers Woman of the Year (2006), 2nd Best Album of the Year (Vonk –2006) and the prestigious Geraas SABC2 Award in the Best Female Vocalist category (2005) for her CD “Divided Heart”. Helena also was nominated by KykNet viewers in 2006 as one of the country’s top ten divas in the Huisgenoot Tempo Awards, (amongst them Sibongile Khumalo and Laurika Rauch) and also nominated for four FNB Vita Awards for Best Performance in a musical review production, (twice) Best Production, Best Costume Design for “The Bridge”( later a CD) and “The Legends and a Touch of Me.”Her DVD “Helena Hettema Alive”, shot in the Centurion Theatre in 2010 and featuring 31 songs was nominated for a South African Music Award (SAMA) in 2011, produced by Helena Hettema Productions. Her third CD,“Highlights” _ 1998 was also nominated for a SAMA.
She has released twelve CDs the most popular being – “Spirit of Piaf and other Great French Legends” in 2007 to critical acclaim featuring 25 musicians in studio, among others the Soweto String Quartet giving the CD a classical yet typical kwela feel – Sony BMG (see CDs on homepage – Website). Some of the vocals were recorded in the studio of renowned American folksinger, Shawn Phillips. The latest CD is “Woordengel” featuring the poetry of Azette Wiesner and music of Lieze Stassen and launched at the Atterbury Theatre in 2014. She sings the French version of “Viva Madiba” on the CD “In Homage to the Mandela Legacy” (released in 2013) featuring Anton Goosen’s original Afrikaans version and several other prominent artists for the other nine South African languages among others: Dozi (isiZulu); Manuel Escorcio (Portuguese); Rebecca Malope (isiXhosa); and “Mammie” Ntshauba (Setswana).
As a cabaret artist and live performer Helena sings in French, Flemish, Dutch, Italian, English and Afrikaans and renders the music of continental greats,(particularly renowned for her French renditions of Piaf and Brel), alternative, contemporary, alternative, folk, jazz and her own and other original music. Her own original music deals with universal themes such as the environment, social commentary as well as death, love and loss. Helena has performed in Holland Belgium, England, Turkey, New Zealand and Italy. A highlight was a performance in London’s Cadogan Hall with two SA classical pianists, Zorada Temmingh and Elna Van der Merwe in the show “Three Blondes from Africa” featuring Helena as solo artist.
In 2013 on invitation, she performed at the “Festival voor het Afrikaans” in Den Haag, The Netherlands. In 2014 on invitation from the SA Embassy she performed in Antananarivo, Madagascar to celebrate 20 years of democracy. In April 2015, Helena appeared as a guest artist in the “Club” in the popular TV soapie, “7de Laan”. Helena’s videos may be viewed on YouTube under Helena HettemaYouTube or on the Homepage of her website and her music downloaded oniTunes and various music outlets.
Some Press comment:
“Helena Hettema is one of South Africa’s most accomplished cabaret artist. ..album can be commended for its superb quality of fine musicianship. Her Piaf playfully included an SA feel as the Soweto String Quartet add a delightful Kwela twist…” Classic Feel, Oct 2007.
“And boy can she sing! Hettema has a voice that ranges from crushed silk to wet gravel and she uses it with sensitivity and skill. It was a stirring performance…great opportunity to see one of South Africa’s finest performers in action.” Peter v.d Merwe – Pretoria
News 22 Nov 2006 “South Africa has its own folk poet in the form of singer/ songwriter Helena Hettema. This child of the cosmos brings an ethereal, thoughtful vision to Divided Heart, her sixth CD. The result is an evocative, gentle, stirring album that will enchant the discerning listener.” Christina Kennedy – Citizen 21 June 2004
“Sy sny dieper as die vel” – Beeld – Martjie Roos
“Een van ons beste sangeresse” – Rapport/