‘Faith first, music second’, says Amira Willighagen

Henry

Then Amira Willighagen the talent search competition Holland’s Got Talent won in 2013 as a nine-year-old, she didn’t realize what was in store for her. However, what she already knew then was that it was a God-given talent that she had received.

Amira still remembers well the day she sang for her mother for the first time.

She was only seven years old, and was inspired by her younger brother who could play the violin, her mother skilled with the flute and violin, and her father who could play the accordion, piano and organ. She remembers how they always made music together, and that ever since she can remember she wished she could play with them.

Her little brother, whom she describes as a “genius”, wrote down Italian songs for her phonetically. She listened to the songs over and over, and learned to sing them without any formal music or voice training.

One day she sat on her mother’s lap, and sang Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Pie Jesu” to her – something she still describes today as a “spiritual moment” between them.

“My mother was shocked. She said something strange: That when I turn nine, the world will lie at my feet. I didn’t know much about faith then, but I knew that I had received a gift from the Lord.”

Today she likes to share this gift, and takes the responsibility of it seriously and she wants to touch as many people’s lives as possible.

She readily admits that she would not have been able to tackle her life as a young singer without her faith.

“Faith is very important. You can easily be swallowed up by the worldly things as an artist. There are always going to be people who are going to comment, but if you allow yourself to get involved, you can damage your faith.

“That’s why faith is my first priority and music my second.”

Home in SA

Amira (19) has been living in South Africa since 2018 with her mother, Frieda, and brother, Fincent (21). Although it can be seen as a second home for this Dutch singer, from a young age she actually felt much more at home on South African soil.

“The Netherlands was very nice for me, but I have always felt more at home in South Africa,” Amira tells RNews. It was especially delicacies such as Jelly Tots, biltong, dry sausage and Cream Soda that made her feel like a real South African. It was therefore not a huge challenge for her to exchange the Dutch greenery for a South African landscape.

Since she and her family moved, she has returned to the Netherlands numerous times for performances and to visit her father, who remained there after her parents divorced.

A heart for people

It was after one of her many visits to South Africa that she realized that the playgrounds that are so common in the Netherlands are not known to all South African children.

Even before she Holland’s Got Talent won, she began to dream of opening playgrounds in South Africa. She admits that she didn’t have a clue about money then, but that she started sharing her dream with people after her victory.

She started the Gelukskinders Stigting in 2014, and was then able to set up her first playground in Ikageng, just outside Potchefstroom. Since then, this foundation has been able to set up more than 20 playgrounds.

Amira matriculated at Potchefstroom Gymnasium in 2022, and although she initially struggled to cross the language bridge between Dutch and Afrikaans, she eventually received a distinction in Afrikaans in her final exam.

She remembers the nerve-racking period she went through just before her matric year ended. “I almost didn’t make it because you need your ID to matriculate. We waited for four years to finalize my dual nationality, it was a terribly complicated process.”

One foot in the school, and one on the stage

Today, Amira is grateful that her parents raised her with a measure of normalcy, although her childhood was far from normal.

While she was able to pursue her love for music, her love for academia also grew. She regularly received invitations to perform in different countries, but it was always her choice whether she wanted to do it, or whether she wanted to attend a friend’s birthday party instead.

“Before Holland’s Got Talent I’ve never sung in front of a real audience, except if you count my grandmother. We did not expect what happened that year. My life has changed so much since then, I got a career with which I have been singing all over the world.

“I am so grateful that I was able to see the world, and that the Lord entrusted me with this talent. This talent is special, and I want to use it in his name.”

Throughout her school career, she often traded a maths class for a flight to an exotic country, and although today she is grateful for the world knowledge she gained, she admits that it was not always easy.

“With performances and concerts, my life was sometimes chaotic. One did not always know how it would work out. Some months are quiet, and other months you hardly get a chance to breathe. It’s nice for me today to be able to focus only on my career.”

Watch Amira’s audition at the time for Holland’s Got Talent here: