They might not have understood what he was singing about but they knew “James Pavarotti”, as they call him, would win.
Now it has happened. James Bhemgee’s friends in Mitchell’s Plain, Cape Town, talk with great confidence about the bright new star of the popular TV competition SA’s Got Talent, for whom they enthusiastically held thumbs.
He was pitted against other talented singers for the R250 000 prize.
The country was rapt with attention as the father of six did his thing on stage. And friends couldn’t be smiling more broadly for the man who triumphed.
“James always had it in him; people just didn’t know it. Everyone was shocked when they heard him sing but we haven’t been shocked for some time; we know his singing,” says friend Randall Samuels.
The man of the moment, a 45-year-old former street sweeper, confesses he suspected he could win although he nearly collapsed when he heard his name called out on the big night.
Now he has great plans for his winnings. “I haven’t always been able to spoil my children as I would have liked to. They’re very excited. I always told them – the eldest is 23 and the youngest is three months old – just you wait, my turn will come. Now it’s here.”
He’s itching to start work on his first CD; it has been his big dream that someone would finally give him the chance.
“I know people will support me and I’m looking forward to showing them I’m really capable of even more.”
What about those who say he has already had his chance, as he had music training overseas after being discovered literally on the street by a Cape Town woman in 1989 while he was a street sweeper?
James was 23 and as usual singing Sonder Jou, made popular by Gé Korsten, while sweeping the street.
“Angelique Fuhr came out of her house and asked if I was singing or if it was the radio. When I told her it was me she invited me in. She arranged for me to take lessons for three months with a friend who was a music teacher.”
James isn’t modest about his talent.
“I’m one of the country’s best but things always happen a bit late for me. I started serious singing lessons only at 28. I’m already 45 and things are only now starting to happen.”
Read the full article in YOU, 11 November 2010.