South African music comes to Marine Theatre bar

neil maya
Saxophonist Neil Maya

MELODIC saxophonist Neil Maya and South African born pianist Philip Clouts will be playing catchy tunes which lift the spirits on Sunday, February 25th as part of the Marine Theatre’s popular ‘Jazz in the Bar’ series.

They have assembled a set which features music from the greats of South Africa, including Abdullah Ibrahim’s breakthrough hit ‘Mannenberg’, Miriam Makeba’s ‘Click Song’ and tunes by Dudu Pukwana and Hugh Masakela.

Saxophonist Neil Maya has, like Philip Clouts, been influenced in his own playing and compositions by the music of South Africa. Neil regularly plays jazz saxophone across the South West with his own quartet and with the Drat Pack.

As a teenager Neil trained as a clarinettist at the Royal College of Music. He took up the sax when he was fifteen and got the jazz bug soon after-he has since studied with a number of eminent players including Jean Toussaint. He has recently been touring a special programme celebrating the music of Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond.

He was praised by the Teignmouth Jazz Festival for his “electrifying performance with crisp melody lines and improvisation.”

Philip explained more about the background to this concert: “Townships were the poor, black residential areas created under the apartheid regime in South Africa. Marabi was a music form which had developed in these, and the addition of influences from American jazz led to what is referred to as Township Jazz which usually has simple harmonies and very resonant melodies.

“Pianist Abdullah Ibrahim’s piece ‘Mannenberg’ was a breakthrough hit in that style, and all of his music has been a major influence on me, along with many others including singer Miriam Makeba and trumpeter Hugh Masakela.

“In the 1980s when I was starting out in earnest as a pianist there were many exiled South African musicians living in London. Some, like Dudu Pukwana, the great saxophonist, had come over in the 1960s, as my own family had done, with the Blue Notes who became celebrated very quickly for their vibrant music.

“But there were others from a younger generation, including drummers Brian Abrahams and Thebe Lipere, and for me most notably the pianist Bheki Mseleku who was a great source of inspiration and who mentored me for a short while.

‘Emotional connection’

“As well as Mseleku showing me the ropes, Thebe Lipere joined my 6-piece band Zubop for our first few gigs, playing his distinctive African drum kit, and the band went on to be very popular on the live music circuit, subsequently expanding into ZubopGambia, which featured the BBC World Music Awards-winning riti (one-string fiddle) player Juldeh Camara.

“I have felt a direct emotional connection with this music from an early age, and I often find that my inspirations when sitting at the piano come from that source. I think you can hear that clearly in pieces like ‘Direction South’ and ‘Umoya’ on my latest album with my own quartet.

“It’s a great pleasure to re-visit some of my original sources of inspiration for this concert. We’ll be playing pieces that connect directly to the audience, very melodic and with catchy rhythms.”

Neil and Philip will be playing on Sunday, February 25th from 8pm in the Marine Theatre’s bar. Tickets cost £8 in advance or £12 on the door – call 01297 442138 or visit to book.


Philip Clouts and Neil Maya play at the Marine Theatre in 2016

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