Nostalgic visit back home for US-based Emma G

Who would’ve believed a wee Emma Ghaemmaghamy – scratching away on her violin at an Old School concert decades ago – would return one day to Raglan from Washington DC and perform a gig downtown at the Yot Club.

Only the Yot Club was the local video store last time Emma G, as she’s now known, was back in town. So performing at the popular night spot last Friday was a first for her.

Emma’s on a whirlwind ‘All Roads Lead To Home’ national tour to celebrate her debut solo album Taking Flight, which was two years in the making.

“I grew up here until I was about nine,” Emma confirmed to the Chronicle as she unpacked guitar, mike, keyboards and other paraphernalia from her car on arrival.

She no longer plays the violin but remembers that first concert 23 years ago at the Old School Arts Centre in Stewart Street, when she was just five. In fact it was not long after – at six – that she recorded her first song with longtime local Dennis Conquest.

“It was ‘Just A Girl’, the No Doubt song,” she recalled.

Something else she remembers is the long-gone Moreton Bay fig tree on Puriri Street. “That was where I wrote my songs,” she added a tad nostalgically.

Emma was looking forward to being home, seeing Raglan’s iconic walkbridge again and eating some “fush and chups” down at the wharf.

She was keen to check out the letterbox of her old house on Cambrae Road too. “I want to see if it’s still the same as the way I painted it when I was eight,”  she laughed.

Shortly afterwards the Te Uku School girl moved with her mother into Hamilton, though returned here whenever she could.

Emma later went on to establish a profile as vocalist for Auckland rockers Static Era, and in 2012 was a New Zealand Local Hero Award recipient for inspiring others through music.

Since then she’s gone solo and – having moved to the States two years ago to pursue her music dreams – has become known on Washington DC’s busking circuit as the Kiwi girl who plays great songs and gives great hugs.

“Yep I’ve lost count of how many hugs I’ve given out since election day,” Emma said in obvious reference to Donald Trump’s victory.

While she loved being in DC for “the culture and the people”, she admitted it was weird too because the election on November 8 – coincidentally her birthday – brought a lot of heartbreak to the capital.

Emma works full time there as a street performer, also doing the rounds of clubs, bars and community events. “For me, music is about connection,” she explained.

So there were no nerves before the gig at the Yotty, for instance, because she’s comfortable with the soul/pop/rock stuff – described as both sultry and gutsy – that works for her.

She was definitely “excited” to be gigging locally however, and to show that her career was indeed – as the album title suggests – taking flight.

Edith Symes