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MEET THIJS

In this interview series we introduce you to the musicians of the Mystifiers.

This week we talked to musician and band coach Thijs about his own music mentors, his inspirations and identity.


Photo: Desiré van den Berg

Was music already a big part of your life when you were a kid?

Yes, from when I was seven, I already had music lessons. Back then it wasn’t a big passion yet, it was more something I just ‘did’. When I was around 14 years old I started to play the jazz records from my dad’s collection. My saxophone teacher was also into jazz. That is the moment a real spark started to light up in me. Before that time my instrument didn’t really bother me in between my lessons.


And how did you decided to play the saxophone in the first place?

Haha, that was also a coincidence. I actually wanted to play the trumpet but there was only a saxophone teacher in town. I remember that I was playing in my room, I looked at the time and it was already two hours later. In no time. That’s when I knew something began to live and I could not stop making music anymore.


How did you start exploring that newly found love for music?

I lived in a very small town in Noord-Holland. Nothing was really happening there. When I turned 16, I attended a jazz workshop in Alkmaar. There I met two musicians, Petro and Charlie, who were my big mentors until my 20s. I still think a lot about both of them. They introduced me to a lot of new music. They were the real deal for me – they played with big musicians that I looked up to at the time. I did music trips with them to Italy and France, and a lot of jam weekends. They really brought that first spark to life for me.


When this spark was brought to life, you studied jazz at the Conservatory of Amsterdam. How did your career in music went on?

I started playing in a band called Mdungu. We made albums and toured a lot together. I also had a jazz trio for ten years. A while later I started playing in the band of Dutch Hip Hop musician Typhoon. I played in his band for seven years. Next to that I also gave afrobeat workshops for a while. That was a lot of fun and a great learning experience.


What do you like about teaching those workshops and teaching in general?

I like the non-theoretical part of it. Also at the Mystifiers. It is not about explaining the music, but we are working together to create new beautiful music. We make new pieces together and there is room for input from everyone. I enjoy being a part of that and give everyone direction in that. Working with people is a two-way learning experience for me. I also try to learn new things while teaching. For example: I try to learn new things about a genre I don’t really now. That’s how you keep things fresh and interesting for yourself. With the Mystifiers I also do not play the saxophone, but I play bass. That is where the challenge is for me. I need that adrenaline and newness.


“I need that adrenaline and newness”

What does music mean to you?

Music is very important to me, but I also had to learn that life is more than music alone. My identity and self-worth were very intertwined with who I was as a musician before. Later in life I released myself from that. Apart from this life lesson – music is still a crucial part of my life. Especially in the car, I always play CD’s – from old skool hard rock to hip hop. I am always restlessly looking for genres that are new to me and also for the origins of it. For example, I am obsessed with Surinam Kawina music now, and looking for vinyl records of it everywhere.


When did you start playing at the Mystifiers?

The corona period started. A lot of jobs, like concerts and teaching music, stopped for me back then. I was searching for something to do. That’s how I got in to contact with Eiwerk first, I started to give Afrobeat courses there. After a workshop I got invited by Anne from the Mystifiers to start coaching there as well.


What can we expect from your band on the concert on July 4th?

I love how eclectic the music of our bands is and how everyone’s personality come together in one band. You can really hear that reflected in the music. A combination of rock, funk, rap and soul. It’s going to be really fun. Come and listen for yourself in the Tolhuistuin!


Want to visit the concert on July 4 in Tolhuistuin Amsterdam? RSVP HERE


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