Video of African boy triggered hunt for 'New Justin Bieber'

Record companies scoured South Africa for Vicus Visser after the 10-year old's video went viral

LAST UPDATED AT 11:32 ON Thu 24 Jan 2013

RECORD COMPANIES spent more than two years searching for Vicus Visser, after a video of the young South African singer dubbed "The New Justin Bieber", went viral.

The video shows 10-year-old Visser singing These Arms by US R&B group All-4-One at his home in a "drug-ravaged" township in Bloemfontein in Free State province. The clip "lay dormant" for several years before it was posted on YouTube, reports The Guardian. Visser's performance revealed "such a precocious talent" that record industry executives began an international hunt for "the boy with the angelic voice".

Omar Grant, a scout for Sony's Epic Records label, used Facebook to start the search, posting an appeal to help find a boy "who goes by the name of Vicus". "We believe his talent is amazing and we'd love to offer him a major label recording deal," Grant wrote.

Scouts from US record labels flew to South Africa to join the hunt and a tabloid newspaper put the search for Visser on its front page. He was finally located two years ago. The teen dubbed 'The Bieber of Bloem' was besieged with offers from major record labels including Def Jam, Sony and Atlantic.

Visser finished school instead – at his mother's insistence - then signed a deal with Johannesburg's David Gresham Records.

Now aged 19, he is about to make his first trip to America to represent his country at a tribute concert to Nelson Mandela at the Kennedy Centre in Washington. His voice is already earning him comparisons in the US to Bieber and the R&B star Usher.

Visser told the Guardian the fateful video that launched his career was shot by a friend who "begged him" to sing the song. "She sent it around and I was mad with her," he said.

 · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.