Every other Thursday we feature musicians in our Mics and Beats segment. Today’s Mics And Beats artist is pianist and composer Jef Neve. Jef Neve was recently in the country to play at the Safaricom International Jazz Festival where he thrilled fans with his fantastic piano skills.
Pianist/composer Jef Neve has become a prominent figure in his homeland Belgium and his reputation is rapidly spreading to the rest of the world. He has studied music and even has a master’s in jazz and classical music. He also has training in Chamber music.
Jef Neve started playing in local bands at the age of fourteen and was already a composer by that age. He has played with various jazz bands, pop bands, classical ensembles and theatre productions.
Since 2008, Jef Neve has been a solo performer and his star has been steadily rising. He has also toured with the ‘Jef Neve Trio’. Jef has been traveling on successful tours from Denmark to Australia, from Canada to Japan. In between touring, he composes music for a solo album, for film and TV series as well as classical piano music.
You can find out more about him and his work here.
This is your second time to perform in Kenya? How was it?
It was, yet again, fantastic! The people in Kenya are very humorous, they showed us so much love and gave me energy to play! This time we played in trio formation, which made it even more fun! But this crowd, I would love to have them everywhere in the world, an example for the other countries!
Did you manage to do any tourist things like go to the National Park while you were here? How was the experience?
Yes, what beauty you have here! We went to Lake Naivasha and Crescent Island. We took a walk between the zebras and giraffes. We also went on a boat ride on the lake to see the hippos. Awesome!!
You went to see the Ghetto Classics Kids in Korogocho Slum. How was that experience. What was the highlight of your time with the kids?
This was by far the most emotional encounter through music in my life. These kids have to grow up in a hard environment but at the Ghetto classics they can be kids, play around and play music. A wonderful project which I will keep on supporting! It’s a lesson in humility for us, but a huge sparkle of joy for them. A goosebumps experience! Seeing that they have made so much progress in such a short time, just by being motivated and inspired by us coming by, that’s truly amazing.
Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore says that your previous concert in Nairobi inspired the Safaricom International jazz festival. How does that make you feel?
This is the biggest honor a musician can get actually. Being named as the inspiration for such a beautiful festival makes me very honored. If my name is connected with a festival that is becoming one of the biggest in the world, well, what can I say more than Thank you all!
When and why did you start playing? Which instruments do you play?
I started playing the piano when I was 4 years old. My mother used to play it so I wanted to do the same! I also played the saxophone for a while, because I wanted to play in the local wind orchestra in our town 🙂
Do you have a formal musical education?
Yes, I went to conservatory for both classical and jazz piano.
Thinking back to early childhood what was your first experience with music? What song do you remember most as a child?
Well, at home it was mostly a classical radio station that was on, so I actually grew up with classical music, with Bach as the master of it all! But my uncle, who lived nearby, had a huge collection of jazz records, and it was there that I regularly dropped by to listen to jazz, going from Duke Ellington to Monk, etc…
How is the music different from what you listen to now?
Now there’s so much more choice, because of the radios, internet, streaming, and YouTube. So I listen to all different kinds of music, because I want to be inspired all the time in order to be able to compose music.
What made you first realize that you wanted to pursue a career in music?
It was just there. I couldn’t think of something else other than going to conservatory and playing the piano, and trying to become a good piano player. I didn’t know at that time that I would make a living out of performing my music, but it grew silently and now I’m the happiest man on earth because my job is my love!
Who are your favourite musicians now?
I really like Coldplay, Joni Mitchell, Shirley Horn, but also Stromae our dance sensation from Belgium! I’m open to all kinds of music!
How do you handle mistakes during a performance?
Mistakes aren’t the focus, they occur, but the beauty of improvising is that you can make something nice out of a mistake 😉
As long as you play with passion and inspired, you can make all kinds of mistakes, it’s the energy that counts!
What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous?
Like I said, just focus on having fun and joy out of your playing, the techniques will come by practicing!
How often and for how long do you practice?
It depends on the situation. When I’m on tour, I don’t have much opportunity to study, but at home I can play and work for 6-8 hours a day behind the piano.
Do you teach music?
I used to, but not anymore as I’m touring a lot.
How would you describe your music to somebody who has never heard you play before?
It is difficult to say, as I have had both classical and jazz education, I tend to mix these two styles and create my own genre. Some called it more romantic, I would say it’s not Jazz, it’s Jef’s. It is up to the people to discover and like it or not like it!
What can people expect to see at your live performance?
Energy, emotions, love for life!
What do you think your biggest break or greatest opportunity has been so far in your musical career?
I had so many nice adventures already; I couldn’t pick one out actually. But one thing is for sure, the Safaricom International jazz festival is on the top of that list!
Do you write your own music?
Yes, all of it. And if I really like a song (for example from Joni Mitchell or Stronae), I make my own version of it…
What is your favourite type of music and is it different from what you play now?
I do not have not one specific favorite actually so it is difficult to say.
What are your other interests outside of music? What do you do to relax outside of music?
I go jogging a lot everywhere in the world when I’m on tour. I also cycle, but my favorite sport is kitesurfing, and I actually took my first kite lesson in Kenya, at Diani Beach!!
What keeps you going as a musician?
The love that I receive from the audience and after being here in Nairobi I feel I can go on for a long time now, thank you so much!
If you were to perform with anybody/group in the world, either dead, alive who would it be? (You can name a couple of people)
Branford Marsalis check :-), Bono, Chris Martin, Peter Gabriel, Michael Jackson, and I could go on for a while here!
What are your up to date performance plans? New releases? Tours? News
Next month: Germany, London and New-Zealand at the end of the month!