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John Ellis & Barry van Zyl Live at the Docklands

John Ellis and Barry van Zyl performed a live set at the Docklands Hotel recently and The Socialite went along to find out more, check it out…

The Docklands Hotel, situated in Mahatma Ghandi road is fondly referred to as the mother of all gems in the Durban hospitality industry. It offers guests a welcome stay in one of their various trendy rooms or a bite to eat at their restaurant Wodka, which is home to delightful fusion cuisine.

This particular Friday night saw the Docklands Hotel play host to a live set by local music greats John Ellis, a former Tree 63 band member turned solo artist and Cape Town’s session musician, drummer and composer, Barry van Zyl.

The Wodka restaurant which is conveniently situated in the courtyard allowed guests to indulge in a delightful offering of cocktail snacks while enjoying the melodic sounds of two of SA’s most respected musicians. The New York style bistro is open to the public Monday to Friday so guests are welcome to pop in during the week as well as over the weekends for a night of fine dining and live music.

John and Barry have played together for many years now and it all began from the duo’s mutual admiration and respect for each other.

“I’ve always been a great fan of Barry’s playing, but more of his overall musicality. That’s an increasingly rare thing these days” says John.


“In my opinion, John is the most prolific songwriter in this country and a masterful performer” says Barry. “We have played some ‘band’ shows in Cape Town last year and then more recently we have been developing an acoustic format which is really working well. John recently did his new album in this style when we recorded it three weeks ago at a studio in the Knysna Forest called ‘Peace of Eden’ “ he says.

When John is not hard at work in studio you’ll find him feverishly making ‘to-do’ lists, marking English Literature and Politics exams or ranting on Twitter whilst Barry enjoys running as a means of relaxation. He has also been hard at work and is now the man behind the music score for the hit SA feature movie ‘Skeem’ which was released on the movie circuit at the end of October.

With all the studio and upcoming gig dates will Barry return to Durban anytime soon we wonder? “Yes, hopefully there will be more John Ellis & Barry van Zyl gigs in Durban soon for the amazing Signature Life Hotels group” he said.

Barry is also the drummer for Johnny Clegg and will return to Durban soon for a show on the beach in early December only to go on to travel with the band on an international tour to Australia, New Zealand, Western Europe and North America. “I am looking forward to coming back to Durban, I love Durban’s true beach culture and all the people” says Barry.

Their live set at the Docklands had the gathered guests’ full attention and included a few of John’s tracks together with a few cover songs. One wonders what goes into the thought process of an artist gearing up to finalise a set list before a live gig and John explains that he often waits until the last minute to finalise the set list so as to get a feel for the room and the type of audience and then plan accordingly.

“I’ll invariably end up throwing the set list out halfway through and just singing Creedence Clearwater Revival songs till 3 in the morning!” he says with a laugh.

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