DEMIRA JANSEN - HOLLAND'S LORDE - TO PERFORM IN MALTA
Three different acts from Holland will come together to inspire, stimulate and enrich Malta’s already vibrant music scene with their brand of accoustic and live instrumentation at Klezmorimalta Nights, taking place at Pjazza Teatru Rjal on 29 and 30 August. Headlining the show will be award-winning 17-year-old Démira Jansen and her band. SWAG chatted to the feisty young star and discovered a singer-songwriter with something of the Icelandic singer Bjork about her, whose passion for poetry and song has already made her a star in her home country, and, we predict, will also make an international impact - just like the New Zealander Lorde, whose soulful compositions made her a global star at the same age.
How did you start off in the music world?
My mum played the saxophone and together with her whole family performing in a brass band. When I was about three years old, I used to play on a little xylophone, shakers or a big, broken guitar from a box filled with several plastic instruments along with her when she was rehearsing for their concerts, although I wasn’t good at all. I was just very interested in creating sounds and in the happiness of making music together.
I started to play the guitar at a music school when I was seven. I’ve also been writing songs since I was nine. At that time, I participated in the Dutch National Junior Song Contest and reached the finals. I was very enthusiastic about performing on stage from a very young age.
What have been the highlights of your career so far?
In 2012, I won the national High School Music Competition. A lot of gigs followed, including Dutch, German and Norwegian festivals, and I released my first solo EP named Pay Attention. At the time, the video clip of my song The Man In Black received more than 20,000 views within a month.
I was selected as one of the best young poets of the Netherlands in 2013 and during the summer, I took part in the popular TV programme The Best Singer-Songwriter of the Netherlands. I reached the final and after the show I performed a sold out tour of the biggest venues in the Netherlands.
In the autumn, I played my songs in a lot of Dutch cities during a travelling festival called Popronde and I supported foreign artists on tour such as the UK’s John Newman.
In February, I released my second EP called Indigo. I started another successful tour together with my own band and my first single, also called Indigo was on the playlist of the biggest radio station in the Netherlands for two months. The band and I are about to release a videoclip for a new song called Tuxedo.
At the moment I’m on a holiday to relax a little, although I am already making plans for the next single I want to release in November and for a little tour again through the Netherlands in the autumn. But first, of course, will be our little tour in beautiful Malta. You cannot imagine how excited we are!
What does poetry mean to you? Do you think people today appreciate poetry as much as it used to be appreciated in previous times?
Poetry is very important to me. Words can carry so much emotions and feelings. With poems you can explain yourself better. I think that most people today have forgetten about the great significance of poetry. It’s associated with nerds nowadays. The lyrics of most of the pop music on the radio are easy and superficial. There aren’t layers in it, or hidden surprises in the sentences and lines. I think that’s a pity. In earlier centuries the lyrics were sometimes even more important than the music.
Are there any musicians that have inspired you and who you try to emulate?
I try not to emulate any artist or musician. If that happens, the music won’t be close to your own personality anymore and you’ll lose that spark that makes you special and different from all the other artists. I don't have idols, but I can be a great fan of a personality or some of their songs. Jake Bugg, Daughter, Nirvana, George Ezra, Lana del Rey, Bear’s Den, The Cure, Hozier, John Newman, Joy Division… This is just a small selection of the artists I listen to. My taste in music is still changing and I think it always will.
Do you recall any funny moments from your career so far?
That’s actually a hard question. Luckily, nothing has gone terribly wrong on stage yet. I get the giggles sometimes though, which is very annoying for my band members. Speaking of my band members: I carried my drummer's super heavy drumkit off stage one time. He didn't thank me, he just laughed at me when he saw me carry it like Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame. You Maltese men should teach him a lesson for me.
I have another amusing story… when I was about 10 years old, I loved to go to rock concerts and festivals. Once I caught a towel from a rock guitarist with a huge mohawk which had sweat all over it. I immediately passed the towel to a screaming fangirl next to me because I found it disgusting. It’s quite funny to think about it now because last summer I jammed with that same rock guitarist. Kinda ironic.
What are your ambitions?
I’m 17 years old, so I have one year left to go in high school. I don’t want to go to University like other teenagers do: I want to focus on my music career. It would be amazing if I could tour with my band through different countries, to perform at beautiful places and tell my lyrical stories to its beautiful people. That is my dream.
Will this be your first time in Malta?
Yes, this will be my very first time in Malta. I love old towns with character, so I am looking forward to visiting Valletta, Mdina, Rabat and Marsaxlokk. I am sure these places will be inspirational. I also have seen pictures of a place named Popeye Village. If we have time, we’ll probably go there to have some fun. All I have heard about Malta sounds beautiful, so I cannot wait to go there.
SWAG always asks this question to female interviewees: Who is your ideal man, and what must he do to woo you?
This question made me laugh! Nobody has ever asked me this before, so it’s a good one. To be honest, I fall in love easily. Last year, I dated Johnny Bravo types, if you know what I mean. That didn’t work out, as you might expect. I actually have no time for a relationship now. I’m willing to make time for it if I really like somebody though. I’d like it if he takes me to a nice place on his bike – a cute café’ would be alright – and we just have a good time together. I'm not asking for much am I?
Taking place on 29 and 30 August at Pjazza Teatru Rjal, Klezmorimalta Nights will be a celebration of Klezmer music and will feature the highly-acclaimed Amsterdam and Yxalag Klezmer Bands along with poetic folk singer-songwriter Démira.
The event is being organised by the Klezmorimalta Foundation, which is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to showcase music as a performance art. It has been in the works for over a year, and will bring to the forefront a genre of music traditionally associated with Jewish weddings, but which has grown to become an international hybrid of genres with influences of gypsy and Balkan music.
“Klezmer music is a fantastic celebration,” explains Ms Birgit Albrecht, the co-founder of Klezmorimalta Foundation. “It brings people together and it makes you laugh, cry and, more importantly, feel! Today, there is a myriad of modern Klezmer bands that play use traditional Klezmer standards. Their instruments often leave the public breathless, and we hope that will happen here over this two-night event.”
It is the sheer range of Klezmori artists that will be the highlight of the Klezmorimalta Nights. Both the Amsterdam Klezmer Band and the Yxalag Klezmer Band are renowned for capturing different emotional expressions of this music genre and will showcase the traditional standards along with more modern interpretations of this music. Together, they will pave the way for the headliner of the nights, the young, award-winning Dutch star Démira whose latest EP Indigo was launched earlier this year.
“We hope that these three different acts will come together to inspire, stimulate and enrich Malta’s already vibrant music scene,” says Ms Albrecht. “We hope it will encourage dialogue between these artists and other local artists.
“Ultimately, it is important that musicians meet each other to exchange their ideas. After all, that is how we can improve what we’ve already done.”
Klezmorimalta Nights will take place at Pjazza Teatru Rjal, a venue that incorporates tradition and modernity – a symbol of what Klezmer music has become throughout the years.
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