BORN and raised in Oranjemund, Suzie Eises (SE) became immersed in the town’s rich musical culture from an early age.
Renowned as the youngest black female saxophonist in the country, Suzie began playing the instrument when she was in primary school, where she also learnt to play the piano.
She has shared the stage with South Africa’s Jimmy Dludlu and other prominent African artists. She worked with South African House DJ Groove Candi on her debut track, I Decided.
In 2011, she performed at the Old Mutual Jazz Encounters, together with Dludlu and Simphiwe Dana, and also opened for Mi Casa at the Windhoek Show Grounds. She has also performed at numerous festivals and corporate events in Windhoek.
In an interview with Confidente’s Marianne Nghidengwa (MN) this week, Suzie looked back at where it all started, and talked about working on her debut album and teaching jazz and the saxophone to young kids.
MN: Give us a snapshot of who you are.
SE: I am a local musician. I play the saxophone.
MN: Briefly tell us about your upbringing.
SE: I grew up in the small town of Oranjemund. It played a very big role in my life. At a young age, I was involved in singing in the choir, playing piano, doing dramatic arts, as well as ballet and modern dance. I even went as far as charging my parents in their own home to come and see our performances. Also, being the youngest of six siblings, I was very shy and reserved, and as I grew older, I always wanted attention, since the older ones were always seen as relevant. I really feel this contributed to me wanting to perform and being noticed.
MN: What triggered your interest in playing the saxophone?
SE: I attended high school in Cape Town, South Africa. I was attending an assembly in the school hall and was amazed at how the school jazz band played Latin jazz music, and I wanted to join the band, in order to play the saxophone. I asked the musical director if I could start taking lessons, and she told me that as long as I purchase a saxophone, she would be more than happy to teach me. After that, I attended jazz workshops and festivals, and knew this was where I wanted to go with my life.
MN: Do you come from a musical family or are you the only one?
SE: My uncle, Dennis Eiseb, is a very well-known keyboardist and pianist in the country. My sister Joanette Eises has a beautiful voice. My mother always knew I wanted to perform from a young age, and both my parents loved all types of music, so it was always encouraged. My mom never saw me doing anything else.
MN: What inspires your sound?
SE: I have lived in South Africa, Kenya, Germany, England and the United States, and so I have always been inspired by so many different styles of music. My mom’s music also inspired me at a young age, because it was all completely different genres, such as Johnny Clegg and Bob Marley, to name a few.
MN: What challenges have you faced?
SE: The biggest challenge is getting funding and support, when you manage yourself. I do it all by myself, because I want to learn the ins and outs of the music business for myself. It is a challenge when you are crazy and have big dreams, but I am a very hopeful person and have always believed in my dreams. I truly believe I have found my purpose on this earth, and I am grateful that I can do what I truly love.
MN: During an interview with the BBC, you mentioned teaching jazz and the saxophone to kids. How is that going?
SE: I would love to teach children from all backgrounds, but saxophones are very expensive, and so I am working on getting support from companies, so that I can support kids in the future. I was able to organise a jazz workshop and that went well. I am planning to do a few more of those this year. I do teach three to four adults in my home, and that’s always fun to do, and pass on what I know.
MN: Looking back, what memories do you cherish most? Also, what are you currently working on?
SE: Last year, I had three huge shows – one in February, one in May and one in August. It was beautiful to see a full house at the Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre, the Goethe Centre and the Warehouse Theatre. I am grateful for all my supporters. I’m planning a few shows and working on my debut album. I have been recording the songs in studio these past few months. They will be ready in a few months time, so stay tuned.
MN: What don’t people know about you?
SE: I am a very spiritual person. I know there is a Heavenly Father, who is rooting for all us to be our best and do our best. We can’t do this life thing on our own, and I feel He is there to guide us. I can sing like an opera singer. I can beatbox. I love acting and I can do a pretty good American and British accent. I am very silly, if you get to know me more. What’s life without fun?
MN: Speaking of fun, what do you do to relax?
SE: I’m a big fan of water. I love to be near the sea, swim in lakes and rivers, and just chill by the beach. I love camping, hiking, travelling and just being around nature.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015