Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Jannah, Denise (Denise Johanna Zeefuik)
Jannah, Denise [Denise Johanna Zeefuik], vocalist, educator, vocal director (theatre), actress, lyricist and composer; b. Paramaribo, Suriname, South America, 5 November 1956. She's been residing in Holland since 1971. Her father, Karel Zeefuik (Paramaribo, 1934), was a minister (Moravian Church), organ player, politician, and educator. Her mother is Eleonora Zeefuik-Homoet, (Paramaribo, 1935) a midwife and nurse, with a great voice. Her siblings are Ruth (b. Zeist, Holland, 1958), Shirley, a vocalist (b. Zeist, Holland, 1960) and Aida, also a vocalist (b. Paramaribo, 1968). Denise went to the University of Utrecht, Holland for Law studies for 4 and a half years (not completed). She also attended the conservatory of Hilversum, Holland.
Denise's parents first moved to Holland when she was still a baby, in order for her father to study Theology at the University of Utrecht. In 1964 the family returned to Suriname, with two more daughters born. In 1971 (fourth daughter born in the meantime) the family returned to Holland in order for her father to get his doctorate degree in Theology at the same Utrecht University. Denise's High School years were split: 3 years in Suriname, last 3 in Holland. In 1973 the family left again for Suriname, Denise stayed behind to finish her last year in High School and to consecutively start her law studies at the University of Utrecht. She decided to change studies after having only one more year to go, since for a few years already she was convinced that she wanted to be a musician. At 26 she started her vocal studies at the Hilversum Conservatory in Hilversum, Holland in the so called "Light Music" Department, after singing in several ba nds for a few years already, repertoire ranging from Pop to Latin, Disco, Surinamese, Gospel, being very all around. At the conservatory she started singing jazz, although she had been brought up with a wide variety in music, styles also included Jazz and classical music. She graduated in 1992, ten years after starting, since she stepped out for a few years to, among other things, accept a part in the musical "A Night at the Cotton Club" which opened in 1989 and played Holland, Belgium, Germany and England for three seasons.
At the conservatory she studied with Frans Lambour (5 years) and Annet Andriessen (1 year), both classical voice teachers. She studied Jazz with Jerry van Rooijen (1 year), Marjorie Barnes (2 years), Deborah Brown (2 years), also followed some classes with Adrienne West and Mark Murphy.
As an educator Denise Jannah has been teaching for 3 years at the Rotterdam Conservatory and gave several master classes for different institutions (a.o. the Utrecht Conservatory) and private organizations and theatre companies. For several years she worked with theatre companies "De Nieuw Amsterdam" and "Cosmic Theater" (both in Amsterdam) as a vocal coach and vocal director in several of their theater productions. The last ones being Shakespeare's "Romeo 'N Juliette, A Caribbean Xperienz" in 2001 and 2002, but also "For Coloured Girls Who Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Was Enough" from Ntozake Shange in 1987, all Cosmic Theatre productions.
Jannah has been working as a leader for over 10 years now, heading her Denise Jannah Quintet as well as Quartet. She has performed on numerous international Festivals, among which are the "Northe Sea kazz Festival", (The Hague, Holland), the "Pori" Jazz Festival (1996) in Finland, the "Spoleto Festival" in Charleston, South Carolina 1999, the "Barbados Jazz Festival" in 2000, where she opened for Wynton Marsalis and his Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra, Frestival Jazz en Tete in Clairmont Ferrand, France in 2001. She has been featured over the years with the Dutch Jazz Orchestra, the Holland Big Band, The Koninklijke Luchtmacht Kapel (Orchestra of the Royal Dutch Airforce), the Koninklijke Mrinierskapel (orchestra of the Royal Dutch Navy), the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, the Cyrus Chestnut Trio (she toured Japan with him in 1994), the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, the Bob Belden Big Band, the Rosen berg Trio (together with them she toured the dutch theaters in the fall of 2002), and the Willem Breuker Collective (with them she toured also to Italy, Switzerland and France). She performed and or toured in the Caribbean, Europe, Japan, South Africa, The Gambia, The Netherlands Antilles, Suriname, Holland, the United States and Chile. She has performed for the top of the European Union in the Hall of Knights in The Hague in January 1997, where also Beatrix, Queen of Holland was present. In May that same year she was, together with John Hendricks, a featured soloist at the 50th Commemoration of the Marshall Help Plan for Europe, in that same Hall, this time not only for the Dutch Queen and all the European leaders, but also for former US President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton. On June 7, 2002 she performed as one of the featured artists in a special concert in honor of former president of South Africa Nelson Mandela, who was present there that night in Amsterdam. As a writer and composer she has since 2002 begun to set poetry to music. This started as a special assignment from the (yearly) literary festival "Winternachten" (winter nights) in The hague, Holland, and has resulted in invitations to also perform in literary festivals in Suriname, South Africa and the Netherlands Antilles.
Take it from the Top (1991); A Heart Full Of Music (1993); I Was Born In Love With You (with Paquito D'Rivera, Javon Jackson, Cyrus Chestnut, Bob Belden, 1995); Different Colours (1996); The Madness Of Our Love (1999)
William Breuker: Thirst (2000); Amina Figarova: Night Train (2002)
Films, documentaries and television performances:
Documentary film "Jannah, New Lady In jazz"(1996); Among numerous TV appearances are the live broadcast in 16 European countries of the yearly "EBU Jazz Night" (European Broadcasting Union) in November 1994. She was one of the featured artists. representing Holland, during the worldwide & live TV event "Hello 200", broadcasted live in 54 countries during the change of the millennium by a major cooperation of all different tv stations worldwide, called the 'Millennium Network". She was also featured in the jazz series "Bet on Jazz" (1996) from the B.E.T. Network in Washington D.C.
Musicals and theater work:
A Night At The Cotton Club (1989/1990); Gershwin (1996); Joe, The Musical (1997); "Ain't Misbehavin", the Fats Waller Musical Show, (1998/1999, European edition)
In 1986 she received the Soloist Award at the Jazz Concours in Asssen, Holland, where she performed as a featured guest with the Funny House Jazz Band.
In 1989 she won third prize at the international Liederfestival "Menschen und Meer" in Rostock, former East Germany, representing Suriname. In 1991 she won the ":Golden Microphone" at the National Song Concours in Breda, Holland.
In 1992 she won first as well as third prize at the international "Golden Orpheus Festival" in Burgas, Bulgaria, again representing Suriname. The third prize was for a special category where the contestants had to sing an original bulgarian composition, not necessarily in Bulgarian.
In 1994 she received the Edison Jazz Award (which is th edutch equivalent to the US Grammy Award) for her second album on Timeless: "A Heart Full Of Music", recorded in 1993, produced by the Hein van de Geyn, featuring Billy Hart, Cyrus Chestnut, George Mraz and Rick Margitza.
In 1996 she receoived the "Bronzen Stier Award" (Bronze Bull Award) in Amsterdam as a recognition of her careerso far. In the sam eyear she received the "Heart of Rotterdam", awarded by the city of Rotterdam.
In 2000 she was nominated for another Edison award with her (5th) album "The Madness Of Our Love" (Blue Note, 1999). She was also nominated that year for her the same award for her vocals as a featured guest on the album the album "Thirst" from the Willem Breuker Collective (BV Haast, 1999/2000).
In 2000 she was presented the Edison Jazz Public Award during her concert at the North Sea Jazz Festival (her 7th appearance at that festival) in The Hague, Holland.