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Denise Jannah
Hometown: Utrecht
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-“This woman can make you dream, cry, and fall in love. What more could you desire…” (The Music Advocate, USA)

-“Quite simply, Denise Jannah is one of the best jazz singers to come along in the 25 years I’ve been writing about music.”
(Award winning jazz author and critic Gary Giddins in the “Village Voice”, USA)

-“Jannah’s voice is fine – rich, certain and teeming with a candor undiminished by the artifice of record-making.” (Down Beat, USA)

-“If you’re having trouble keeping track of the score of female singers swamping the current jazz scene, let me save you some trouble: Denise Jannah is worth your time.”
(Detroit Free Press, USA)

-“Her voice is so direct, the delivery so fresh and clear that she will surely withstand the test of time.” (Jazz Times, USA)

-“She comfortably embraces a variety of musical styles from all corners of the globe – from Latin America to the “Deep South” of New Orleans blues to the lively scat of a most competent improviser.” (Thys Odendaal, Johannesburg, South Africa)

Denise Jannah was born in Suriname, South America. With her family she moved to Holland in the mid seventies. For 4,5 years she studied Law at the University of Utrecht, but her love for music made her change her course: she enrolled into the Conservatory in Hilversum and completed her studies there, also earning her degree as a vocal educator.
In 1989 she won third prize at the Internationales Liederfestival “Menschen und Meer” in Rostock, former D.D.R. In that year she also was offered an important part in the musical “A Night at the Cotton Club” in which she starred in 347 performances in Holland, Germany and Belgium.
Her first album, “Take It From The Top” she recorded in 1991 with Timeless Records (Wageningen, Holland). In that same year she won the “Golden Microphone” at he National Jazz Vocal Contest in Breda, Holland. 1991 was also the first year (of many) in which she performed at the international North Sea Jaz Festival in The Hague, Holland.
In 1992 Jannah won first prize at the international Golden Orpheus Festival in Burgas, Bulgaria. There she also won third prize in the extra competition where the contestants were required to sing a composition by a Bulgarian composer (not necessarily in Bulgarian).
In 1993 Denise Jannah recorded her second album for Timeless Records: “A Heart Full Of Music”. This album was recorded in New York. For this album she received her first Edison Jazz Vocal Award (important Dutch music award, comparable to the US Grammy Award).
All through the years Jannah’s musical activities included numerous concerts in clubs, theaters and concert halls, teaching, and appearing in many television- as well as radio programs.
In 1995 she was contracted by the prestigious label Blue Note Records (New York, USA).
Her first album with them was “I Was Born In Love With You”. On this album she was featured also with a Big Band. (Recorded in New York)
In 1996 she recorded a ‘cross-over’ album, a mix of different styles, titled “Different Colours”.
She performed in the “EBU Jazz Night” from the European Broadcasting Union,
broadcasted ‘live’ in 16 European countries.
Also in 1996 was the premiere of the movie- documentary “Denise Jannah, New Lady In Jazz” made by renowned Dutch film director Hans Hylkema, who is known for his music documentaries.
Among the highlights in 1997 was her performance for the European Union in The Hague,
Holland in the Hall of Knights in January, and performing in May in the same Hall for Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of Holland, former president Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham-Clinton, and heads of states of Europe in the ”Commemoration Of 50 Years Marshall Help Plan for Europe”.
In the meantime she had toured in a.o. Chili and Japan.
In 1997 Jannah was offered one of the leading parts in “Joe, The Musical”.
In 1998 Denise Jannah and Marjorie Barnes were the leading ladies in Fats Waller’s musical show “Ain’t Misbehavin’ ”, (European Tour). The “Ain’t Misbehavin’ “ cast performed for Mrs. Rodham-Clinton when she hosted a reception during her visit to Holland that year.
In 1999 Jannah’s fifth album was released: “The Madness Of Our Love”, also on Blue Note Records and recorded in New York. This album was nominated for the Edison Jazz Vocal Award.
Also in 1999 she performed at the prestigious “Spoleto Festival” In Charleston, South Carolina (USA).
In a huge ‘live’ broadcast (54 countries) during the change of the Millennium Jannah performed the song “Different Colours, One Rainbow” (her own lyrics) with about 100 children at the Dam Square in Amsterdam. The program was titled “Hello 2000”.
Also in January she opened the Barbados Jazz Festival.
Apart from leading her own group Jannah had also performed several times as a featured guest with the Willem Breuker Collective. In 2000 their album “Thirst!” was released, on which Jannah performed 5 songs. She was again nominated for the Edison Jazz Vocal Award for her contribution to Willem Breuker’s album. The Willem Breuker Collective has been around for 27 years and has toured all over the world. Jannah has joined them on trips to Italy, Switzerland and France.
In July 2000 Jannah was presented with the Edison Jazz Public Award, during her 7th appearance at the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Hague, Holland.
In 2001 Jannah performed in Curaçao for the Curaçao Jazz Foundation, and at the festival “Jazz en Tête” in Clairmont-Ferrand, France. In 2002 she performed at “Printemps du Jazz” in Nîmes, France.

Denise Jannah is a person of many interests. She is a vocalist, actress, educator, theatre vocal coach, composer and lyricist, who has made her mark in the world of jazz but who does not at all shy away from other styles like Latin, Fusion or World music. She claims her artistic freedom and loves to blend styles, of course also including her rich Surinamese cultural background. She is multilingual, from which she also benefits in her music.
Jannah has been teaching Jazz at the World Music department of the Conservatory in Rotterdam, Holland for several years. Numerous have been her private classes, workshops and master classes.
As a theatre vocal coach she works with theatre companies like “De Nieuw Amsterdam” and “Theater Cosmic”, both in Holland. She has been a vocal coach for 7 theatre productions so far, including “Antigone” and “Regenboogvrouwen” (“For Coloured Girls Who Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Was Enough” from Ntozake Shange, USA). She was last vocal coach for “Romeo ‘N Juliette, A Caribean Xperienz” from Theater Cosmic, spring 2003, and “Ajax from Africa” from De Nieuw Amsterdam, fall 2003.

Denise Jannah has been featured as a guest with numerous bands, groups and orchestras throughout the years. Besides touring with her own group she has, among others, toured or performed with the Orchestra of the Royal Dutch Navy, the Orchestra of the Royal Dutch Air Force, the Royal Police Orchestra, The Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, the Rosenberg Trio, the Cyrus Chestnut Trio (USA), the renowned Dutch men’s choirs Maastreechter Staar and the Stichts Mannenkoor, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band (USA), the Metropole Orchestra, the Fra Fra Big Band, the Fra Fra Sound, the Holland Big Band, the Dutch Jazz Orchestra, the Bob Belden Big Band (USA), the Berget Lewis Gospel Train and the Willem Breuker Collective (touring the Dutch theatres again with this renowned orchestra from September ’06 through March ’07).
She has furthermore shared the stage with distinguished colleages such as the well-known soul singer Eddie Floyd (“Knock on Wood”), jazz vocalist extraordinaire Jon Hendricks (“King of Vocalese”), pianists (the late) John Hicks, Bertha Hope, and Kenny Baron, bassists Ruth Davies and Ray Drummond. Among her steady accompanists are pianist Amina Figarova and guitarist Wolf Martini.
International tours and/or performances included countries like Suriname, South Africa, the Caribbean, the Netherlands Antilles, Canada, Chili, Japan, Indonesia, Algeria, several European countries and the United States.

Jannah has performed for Royalty and other heads of states: she performed for Beatrix, Queen of Holland and the late Prince Claus, for leaders of the European Union at the “Eurotop”, for presidents Ellen Sirleaf Johnson (Liberia) and Ronald Venetiaan (Suriname), for former president Bill and his wife Hillary Clinton, for the then Dutch Crown Prince Willem Alexander and his wife Princess Maxima, for former presidents Kenneth Kaunda (Zambia) and Nelson Mandela, and on separate occasions for Mrs. Graça Machel Mandela and Mrs. Hillary Clinton.

In the fall of 2003 she played one of the leading parts in the music theatre production “Jona” from Willem Breuker (Willem Breuker Collective) and Karel Deurloo, based on the book of Jona from the Bible.

Early 2002 Jannah started to set poetry to music. She has performed poetry in literature festivals in Holland, Suriname, South Africa, Aruba, the Netherlands Antilles and Indonesia. In January 2004 her first, well received album containing poetry with all self composed music was released, entitled “Gedicht Gezongen” (Poetry Sung). This was her first independent release and self-produced album, which she licensed to Plattèl Music 2004. This also is her 6th album altogether as a leader.

In 2005, outside of Holland where she resides, Jannah performed/toured in Suriname, Israel, New York, Bonaire, Algeria, Bulgaria, Servia and Indonesia.
In November 2005 she was presented with the Bata Anastacievic Festival Award at the International Nišville Jazz Festival in Niš, Servia, where she performed with the Bulgaria National Radio Big Band and the Ratko Zjaca Quartet.
On the 2006 international schedule were concerts also in South Africa, Luxembourg, Suriname, Belgium and the United Kingdom.
Jannah’s international performances in 2007 included concerts in Azerbaijan, Croatia, Bulgaria, Belgium, Curaçao, Aruba, Suriname and South Africa.
2008 tours included Taiwan, Croatia, South Africa, Suriname and Belgium.
International tours and concerts in 2009 included Austria, Ireland, Suriname, Bonaire, Indonesia, Montenegro, the US and South Africa.
On April 29 2009, Jannah received a Royal Decoration from Her Majesty the Queen of Holland, Beatrix, as ‘Ridder in de Orde van Oranje Nassau’. Five years earlier she had been decorated as “Officier in de Ere-Orde van de Gele Ster” by Ronald R. Venetiaan, President of the Republic of Suriname.

2010 started with an interesting tour visiting the Dutch theatres as a featured guest with the renowned Rosenberg Trio and special guests like US vocalist Dennis LeGree: blending Gypsy Swing, Soul and Gospel in the “Rosenberg Soul Show”!
On May 1st 2010, Jannah gave a concert At Baker’s Keyboard Lounge in Detroit, USA. This was one in a series of the club’s 76th Anniversary Concerts: the oldest Jazz club in the world! She was invited back within six months for 2 more concerts, also she was featured at Bert’s Marketplace and Jazz Club in Detroit.
In 2011 Jannah was featured in the 6th and last episode of the Dutch documentary series “ZINGEN!” , a series on several aspects of the vocal discipline, ranging from Classic to Cabaret to Jazz. She performed in Rwanda, also for President Paul Kagame,
and her tours included concerts in French Guyana, Suriname, Curaçao and Aruba.
Jannah was also part of the cast of the theatre project “CLAUS!”, a dramatical, theatrical and musical reading about the late Prince Claus, husband of Queen Beatrix from Holland, which was also performed in Curaçao and Aruba. In May 2011 Denise Jannah was presented with the “Meer Jazz Award” an achievement award, after her concert at the Meer Jazz Festival. She performed in Rwanda and with her Denise Jannah Quartet at the Kayenn Jazz Festival in French Guyana and in Suriname. She toured in Croatia with guitarist Ratko Zjaca and in Italy and Albania with the Colijn Buis Quartet. With her Denise Jannah Quartet she toured in Colombia in the fall of 2012. That year also saw the re-release of Jannah’s Blue Note Recordings: “The best of the Blue Note Years”, a 3 cd-box. There was another appearance in Rwanda as well.

In 2013 Jannah visited South Africa for concerts twice with her guitarist Wolf Martini after also releasing their first duo album , “Live in South Africa”.. She again toured Croatia and Serbia, The Netherlands Antilles, Germany and Suriname. In November 2013 Jannah started performing the play “ELLA!”, a one woman show on the legendary Ella Fitzgerald, with which she will continue touring in the fall of 2014.


Take It From The Top -Timeless Records, 1991
A Heart Full Of Music -Timeless Records, 1993
I Was Born In Love With You -Blue Note Records, 1995
Different Colours -Blue Note Records, 1996
The Madness Of Our Love -Blue Note Records, 1999
Gedicht Gezongen (Poetry Performed) -Plattèl Music, 2004
Best of the Blue Note Years (triple album!) –EMI/Blue Note Records, 2012
Denise Jannah & Wolf Martini, “ Live in Johannesburg (2013)

-as a featured guest Jannah can be heard on:

The Birthday Concert - Jack van Poll -October Records, 2002
Thirst! - Willem Breuker Kollektief feat. Denise Jannah
-BV Haast, 2000
Night Train - Amina Figarova - Munich Records 2002
El Sendero -The Amsterdam Jazz Sextet -2006
Magie - Trapperdetrap 3 -Parea Records 2006
Hot Swing – The Gypsy Boys feat. Denise Jannah –Brilliant Jazz 2007
I Have A Love – Stichts Mannenkoor with Denise Jannah - 2008
Route 66- Dim Kesber and Friends -2010

Jona, de Neezegger (DVD) –Willem Breuker Kollektief
-BV Haast 2004


Music, Video, Image and Lyric Samples:

forpeace.docx - "For Peace"! I wrote these lyrics after hearing trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf play a wonderful composition of his at this year's edition ('14) of the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterda, Holland. His Music touched me deeply, and the words just came to me. I

YouTube Videos:

Denise Jannah
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