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Meet Iain Thomas, the 36-year-old South African poet who is famous all over the world except in SA

Koos Kombuis

Who is that girl with the hat?

2013-06-12 10:02
She used to be just another small-time singer on the fringes of the fast-growing South African music industry.

Though those who knew her mesmerising voice and hard-hitting solo performances always knew she should be achieving more success than she did, the diminutive figure of Andra - also known informally as "that girl with the hat" - seemed destined to be drowned by the sheer numbers of her competition.

Now, finally the world is sitting up and taking notice. And, out of the blue, the graph line of Andra's career is taking a sharp curve right to the top.
It started with a high-profile podcast interview on the front page of Rolling Stone SA online, some well-placed YouTube material, and now her exposure on "The Pirate Bay" has sparked record viewer numbers internationally. "63 000 hits and counting," a friend from Canada, who helped orchestrate this girl's rise to fame, informed me on Twitter a few days ago.

I asked Andra if she could explain this phenomenon. Turns out, her recent success had not come overnight, as it appears to be, but is the result of lots of hard work during the last three years. This is her story:

"I was really fortunate that a song of mine, Fall too Slow, was chosen for a TV commercial on Unites States Television in 2010. AT&T used it for their "reconnect" advert. Although the song was only played for 20 seconds, it drew immense attention, more attention than I would ever have thought possible. I posted a large number of CDs to 42 different states in the US as well as a number of locations in Europe. Not having my music on iTunes at the time meant that I had to send them the “old way”. Recently, without my knowing, a very cool "fan", now more like an online friend, shared a Youtube video of mine with "The Promo Bay". They contacted me (me being totally oblivious to what it was all about) and asked my permission to feature my video on their home page. I am extremely grateful for that exposure! It created so much awareness that I have had to ship CD's to USA, Canada, Israel, Australia, Brazil, Sweden and Germany!"

Andra, who was born and raised in Namibia, has released two ground-breaking albums: Secrets and Skeletons …Notes from a Desert Café and the more recent one with the song featured in the video is called Ever Had That Feeling, which are only now attracting the attention they have always deserved.

I asked her whether, if she ever got invited to tour abroad with her material, what message she would have for fans across the water, and she simply said, "I love both of these amazing countries (South Africa and Namibia) and they are very special people dearly and will strongly recommend that people visit and experience the variety and inspiring spirit that these countries offer. I do not get involved in politics or other battles - My purpose is always to just play and sing my stories as best I can, treat this planet with respect and to be kind to everyone that I meet."

Hats off to the girl with the hat! Andra, we wish you all the luck you deserve!


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