Saturday, 19 March 2011

Meet the Musicians: Nicki Maher

In this new series, we get to hear from the musicians themselves. For the inaugural post in the series, I have interviewed London clarinetist, Nicki Maher.

 Nicki Maher
Nicki was brought up on a musical diet of Newfoundland folk and Western classical music. She discovered the clarinet when she was eight. Having muddled through the complexities of Brahms and Poulenc, Nicki emerged triumphant having obtained her grade eight with honours, awarded by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Since then she has explored the chirps and trills of klezmer clarinet and has delved into the excitement of the additive rhythms of the Balkans with David Bitelli at the University of Southampton. She has also attended the Jewish Music Institute’s (JMI) Klezfest for the last three years under the guidance of Merlin Shepherd, Christian Dawid and Frank London. In September 2009, she started her Masters in Music Performance at SOAS studying the intricacies of Turkish music. As part of this course, she learnt Turkish Romani klarnet style with Selim Sesler and Serkan Çağrı in İstanbul. She has been part of the SOAS klezmer ensemble (which she now co-directs), SOAS Rebetiko band, SOAS Iranian band and has returned to her roots playing the music of the British Isles and its diaspora with the SOAS ceilidh band and the Lime Quartet. She also leads her own band playing Turkish Romani music.

1. How long have you been performing and what inspired you to get into music?
Well, according to my mum I’ve been performing since I was two... she has recounted a certain situation to me numerous times in which I stood up on a table in a classy French restaurant and belted out several nursery rhymes at the top of my lungs, complete with a flannel on my head... and this was all directly before diving head first into the desert trolley...
As for the inspiration... I’m not sure. My parents have always been interested in music but neither of them are musicians.

2. What or who are your influences?
I have a very diverse set of influences. I grew up listening to the folk music of Newfoundland (where my dad is from) so I imagine that this could be where my folk-ward leaning comes from.

When I ‘seriously’ started learning music, I learnt classical clarinet and classical theory and harmony. When I got to university I rebelled against my past and decided to start learning jazz. I was lucky enough to meet David Bitelli, the jazz horn teacher at Southampton University, who then introduced me to Klezmer and Balkan music as well. Since then I haven’t looked back. I would say that my main clarinet playing influences are – jazz (Sidney Bechet, Benny Goodman, Johnny Dodds; Klezmer (Naftule Brandwein, Dave Tarras, Sammy Musiker, Merlin Shepherd, and Christian Dawid); Balkan (Miroslav Bušinovski, Tale Ognenovski, Ivo Papasov and Ferus Mustafov. Turkish: Mustafa Kandıralı, Selim Sesler and Serkan Çağrı).

3. What is your all-time favorite albums?
I have to say that I’m more of an individual track person than having favorite albums. If I had to pick, then I guess the best albums that I own and can think of right now would be:
Selim Sesler – The Road to Keşan
Ivo Papasov – Dance of the Falcon
La Bottine Souriante – Rock and Reel
The Beatles – Sgt Pepper or Magical Mystery Tour. Can’t decide.
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here

This list is definitely not definitive or exhaustive.

4. What are you listening to right now?
An ezan on YouTube in makam Segah! Have a listen too if you like:

5. Have any upcoming gigs/shows we should know about?
Yes! With the SOAS klezmer ensemble on the 31st March at The Victoria (E8 3AS) in Dalston. And on the 1st April with Basso Remvasso at St. Ethelburgas (Bishopsgate/Liverpool st.) 
You can hear Nicki with the SOAS Maqam Project here:

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