From choir boy to smooth crooner
At home in his one-bedroom man cave, seated at his newly endorsed electric Kurzweil piano and surrounded by a few sound systems, Eric reflects on his youth spent in the company of a musical family.
“I was born in the Eastern Cape and came from very humble beginnings. I’m Xhosa actually, not a coloured like everybody thinks. I’m full blown black but I speak coloured very well. When I tell you some of my earliest memories of music involved Elvis Presley movies, learning his songs and wanting to sing them, you would never have thought that there was a time in my youth when I hated music.”
As an eight-year-old at school, instead of playing on the field with his classmates during lunch break he had to spend his time in the music room of his aunt who was a piano teacher at the school. Back then, Eric had no dream to join a choir and didn’t see himself as a professional singer until he started singing at Sunday School. Some of his fondest memories are of church retreats, directing church musicals and being fascinated by music in the movies.
“Time management was never really my thing, but coming up with words to share and sing or playing an instrument in front of a crowd was something that came effortlessly to me. When I left school I was juggling a fulltime job in banking and music school. Eventually I had to drop out of the one thing I enjoyed most because I had to bring home a salary.”
But that downtime didn’t last long because Eric could not ignore his passion for music. He was good at his job but he hated it, so he pursued music and eventually became a background singer for the legendary Ernie Smith. After that, it was pretty much an entire lifestyle overhaul as he gave up his job and in the process almost lost his car because he could no longer afford the payments.
“I can honestly say that if it weren’t for my mother and my own determination I wouldn’t be where I am today. One of my fondest moments in life was when I had to impromptu sing in Ernie’s position on stage because his microphone stopped working. We were both surprised at how seamlessly I switched keys and roles. I knew then I was headed somewhere special. I got my break on the main stage at the Durban July when I covered the smooth sounds of Miriam Makeba. What I realise now is that while that was a massive platform for me back then, it was in hindsight an essential stepping stone that prepared me for the even greater things to come.”
And so it continued, from background singer to soloist, to MC to recorded artist and finally, international star. Eric has dabbled over the years with jazz, traditional pop, RnB, reggae and now is totally into funk. His most current repertoire includes the likes of Stevie Wonder, John Legend, Luther Vandross, Eric Clapton, Seal, Frank Sinatra, Robbie Williams and the list goes on. Eric has written music alongside other South African greats like Natalie Rungan and Kevin Williams, and his music has brought him to the same stage as everybody’s favourite British redhead, Ed Shereen.
“Music is poetry with a beat, and all I want to do through mine is give people peace and motivation. I have always been motivated to write music that brings attention to social ills. I’ve written that music, even recorded it, but to date have not released it. While I usually perform at corporate events and concerts at different venues across SA, I recently crossed the ocean to perform in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Bali and Nihiwatu in Sumba, one of Indonesia’s finest luxury resorts. This was an honour for me.”
Eric has also received invites to share his talent in other areas of the globe – the UK, USA, Germany, Russia, Brazil and France, so he will be performing more internationally going forward, with a focus on artist discovery and development for his record label. He has recently initiated a campaign called Rising Stars that comprises 12 background singers, some of whom are ex-idols contestants who he has rounded up to go on tour with him.
“Through the campaign I’m hoping to develop younger artists by encouraging them to unravel their potential without having to experience the same challenges I faced when I started in the music industry. It’s not been easy, this journey, but I’m in a great place now. I love the freedom my career gives me to be my own boss. I am comfortable, able to enjoy life and my career, and the travel is a bonus. I’m so happy when I am behind the mic. If I’m being brutally honest, I’m terrible at the piano, and I prefer the attention that I get as a singer! If only my social media inboxes could talk! I enjoy dressing up. I love hats and shoes and the suits form part of a brand I’ve created but ultimately, I love being casual. In fact, when people see me on a regular day at the mall, they are often deeply disappointed because under those smart images on social media is just me, a regular guy.
When he’s not singing, Eric loves watching movies and reading entrepreneur blogs and books. “I also love old cars and technology. I’m busy restoring the only Chev blazer 5.7 litre V8 in Durban. She’s a 1982 model. I’ve had her for two years and she’s a beast! I get shivers just thinking about that car.”
“I love music because it has the power to unite us all. I’m often in circles that consist of people from all over the world and am amazed at how we relate so well with each other when we share what music we enjoy. Language and culture barriers seem to fade away during these times.”
Contact Eric on 073 7348 637 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website www.ericcanhamusic.com
PHOTO credits: Mondli Madondo
Durban Get It Magazine Nobember 2018Kajal Maharaj : Soapie Star