Pianist and composer Herman Rijks began playing the piano at the age of seven. SUR
A musical voyage around the world with Herman Rijks

A musical voyage around the world with Herman Rijks


The Dutch composer talks to SUR in English about his life, his career and his forthcoming show, ZENsacional, in Mijas this month

Wednesday, 1 March 2023, 14:46


The musical show ZENsacional by composer and pianist Herman Rijks returns to the theatre in Las Lagunas, Mijas, on Saturday 4 March. The Dutch musician enjoyed a sell-out show last year, although he claims that this year promises to be even better, with many new songs, exotic new instruments and an even wider range of musical styles.

Born in Yemen in 1963 to Dutch parents, Herman was raised in Uganda, Senegal and Niger. His father was an avid sailor who embarked on a trip around the world during the 1960s, so Herman visited numerous different countries during his childhood.

He began taking piano lessons, at his mother's request, in Africa at the age of seven, but he had little interest in music at that time.

«I had piano lessons until I was 12, and I absolutely hated it. I had a teacher who would whack me on the knuckles if I hit a wrong note. Eventually, my mother let me stop playing piano,» he tells SUR in English, laughing as he remembers the period.

However, just one year later, Herman found himself back at the keyboard, playing piano for a group at his school that was made up of teachers who were twice his age.

«Obviously, they didn't really want a snotty little boy, which I was at that age, but they had no option because there was nobody else. But it was a huge eye opener for a 13-year-old,» he explains.

It was at this time that Herman developed an interest in music and started dreaming of a professional career as a pianist.

Herman, whose artistic name is Hermane, went to study in Holland, a country he says «I love when I don't have to live there».

After finishing his studies at university, he brought a one-way ticket to the Caribbean, where he worked as a professional musician for a while, but he decided to use his university degree and began working as a technical engineer, a career that took him to South America and Eastern Europe.

He then set up his own internet business, although he sold the company and headed to the Costa del Sol, where he set up home in Mijas in 2003: once there, he decided that he «would never move again».

Varying musical influences

Travelling all over the world has influenced his musical style, and this is obvious with his show, ZENsacional, which is a journey through different world music, including flamenco, tango, soul , samba and gospel.

«Africa had a huge influence on my music, and also the Caribbean. The songs I write are inspired by many different genres,» the 60-year-old musician and composer explains.

For his Mijas show, he is working with musicians from the Conservatorio Superior de Música de Málaga, along with a 15-voice choir, and guest artiste, Denice Daley, a singer who has appeared in the Spanish television shows, Got Talent and Tierra de Talento.

He has written numerous new compositions for the show in order to make it different to last year's performance. Between each song, Herman will explain how the particular piece was composed and the meaning behind it.

«Because we are performing in the same theatre, about 50 per cent of the compositions are new. I felt the need to introduce new material to make a completely new experience,» he says.

Herman approaches song writing in a different way to most composers, who will usually produce the lyrics first, and then put them to music, which Herman says is «perfectly alright», although it is not the way he chooses to do it.

«Composing is an artistic endeavour that I love, I just sit at the piano and fool around with a combination of notes and improvise until I come up with something. I try to find harmonies and combinations of notes that are a bit outside of normal,» he declares.

He then has to organise the orchestration, and add the harmonies for the choir, which he says «is the easiest part to be honest».

Herman says he is «extremely excited» about the performance in Mijas next month, and he claims that his new show will take people on a «spectacular musical voyage around the world».

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