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Henno William – a South African superstar!

By Matthew Todd / a couple of years ago

Henno on SAGT 2015 Finals (photo etv)I don’t want to be the next Justin Bieber: I want to be the next Henno William!

13-year-old Henno William shines with talent and creativity. His enthusiasm for music and performing are truly infectious! Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2003 and now living in Pretoria, Henno is famed for being the first ever performer to receive a Golden Buzzer on South Africa’s Got Talent and it’s easy to see why.

Henno Dressing Room 03

Henno’s unique musical style

I had the privilege of speaking to Henno and was absolutely blown away by his maturity and enthusiasm for life. He describes his musical style as R&B and Soul but loves the idea of taking older music and making it his own while he accompanies himself on piano. But probably what I found most compelling is Henno’s amazing aptitude for creating his own material and his strong vision for the artist that he wants to become. I asked Henno to share a little about his musical influences:

Henno on SAGT 01 (photo etv)

“When I began my musical journey I really liked Elton John and all the big old rock bands like Queen and Guns and Roses. Now I’m really into John Legend and Ed Sheeran. Ed Sheeran: I’m really inspired by him because he is a great song writer. And because I write my own music, I’m really amazed at what he does and that’s what inspires me. I really want to have a unique style and be a great songwriter.”

At the young age of 13, Henno is already showing considerable progress towards his goal. Check out his original song ‘Beauty Queen’:

Henno’s creative process

I asked Henno about his creative process for writing music:

Music Video Shoot

“Usually, I don’t have a set method: it comes naturally. Sometimes when I play piano I come up with a cool chord progression or sometimes I have nice words and then I’ll sit and force myself to get some chords to go with it. That really comes naturally. Sometimes when you don’t have any ideas it can be frustrating but it comes when the time is right.”

As a trained singer, it gives me huge pleasure to hear a young man using his voice well and creating a rich and full tone without any sense of the vocals being forced. Henno puts this down to his vocal tutor who gives him classical training:

“It’s the basics of knowing how to use your voice without hurting it and it really helps your range. I can sing three octaves and four notes! You get much further when you do things the right way and you can sing much higher than you used to. You practise your techniques and you practise with your vocal coaches but when you’re on stage you just go for it and you just perform – and if you practise that stuff really well then it all just comes naturally.”

Henno’s solid identity

Best of all, Henno has learned at a very early age that success is not about successful imitation but about having confidence in your own musical identity. It is very rare to have so young an artist already with such a clear idea of what they hope to achieve. This artistic integrity, I feel, does real credit to him and his tutors and family. I wish more young artists could come to this empowering realisation early on:

Henno William 2016

“In South Africa, everyone tends to think that if you are young and if you sing you have to be the next Justin Bieber. And I don’t want to be the next Justin Bieber, you know, he is very talented and very successful but I don’t want to be Justin Bieber, I want to be the next Henno William. I don’t believe in copying other artists, I believe in having your own unique sound. I’m gonna create my own sound, write my own style and hopefully surprise some people.”

Henno admitted that he struggled to motivate himself to study his music theory though he recognises the importance of knowing the ‘nuts and bolts’ of music. Creative and charismatic young people can often struggle with more academic pursuits if they cannot see the value of them but I am confident that Henno will soon start to see that theory can also be wonderfully creative as he learns more about harmony and compositional techniques.

Henno is in no doubt that he wants to perform. He loves it so much that he has little difficulty overcoming his nerves. I asked him how he felt about big crowds and his immediate reply was to laugh and say ‘the bigger the better!”

“I love it when there’s lots of noise and that means people love you, so. I want to still stay humble but I’m not afraid to go out there and make a difference really.”

Henno Rehearse 04

Henno’s advice

Not every 13-year-old has Henno’s talent or his drive and motivation for success. I asked him, as I always do, if he had any advice for young singers:

“You have to get seen by the right people but it doesn’t start there. Go for it, go for your dreams but first get the basics done [vocal training, local competitions, theory etc.]. And it’s fantastic! If you love what you do then you shouldn’t be nervous, then it should be fun and you should want to go on stage.”

Though Henno is going on to great things with new management in New York, USA, he would still very much appreciate support through his social media. In particular, he will be uploading a live, acoustic song to his YouTube channel every week (which I think is a great way to hone your performance skills). Please like and share these videos and, best of all, leave an positive comment to encourage Henno at this crucial stage of his career. Henno emphasised to me how much he appreciated every like, follow, share or comment – it makes all the difference to a young artist.

Henno Laser Tag

Social Media Links and special thanks

Twitter @HennoWilliamHenno William

Henno would especially like to thank:

  • His parents, Bert & Karin
  • His Managers, Kevin Liles & Geoff Ogunlesi from KWL Management in NYC
  • His vocal coach, Ina Wiegand
  • His piano coach, Elmi Botha
  • His Video producer/director, Danie Pretorius (for his music video)

And finally

We are undoubtedly going to be seeing great things from this amazing young artist. It has been a privilege and a pleasure to absorb a little of Henno’s invigorating passion for music and generally his love of life! We at Torchlight Talent are proud to know you Henno and want to wish you all the very best for your exciting future.




About the author

Matthew Todd

Matthew is the owner and author at Torchlight Talent. He has a passion for stories which he believes have the power to inspire and transform. Matthew lives in Glasgow, Scotland, with is wife Lisa. He is a director of Lux Ventus, a company with many creative ventures.