After 30 years at the helm of the legendary Teatro Pereyra, Eric-JanHarmsen will once again be the musical epicentre of Speakeasy, the new café-concert restaurant he has opened in Talamanca. “I’m a live DJ, I play my large collection of jazz and combine it with my improvisation on the piano”, says the musician, who bases the concept of the venue on the speakeasies of the USA during Prohibition.
Eric-Jan Harmsen’s life has always been linked in some way to music. Although his father did not want him to play the piano, his grandfather gave him a small piano when he was a child, and his mother secretly ensured that this instrument accompanied him throughout his childhood and youth in the boarding schools where he lived. At the age of 26 he arrived in Ibiza, and at 29 he already had three children and an incredible musical project on the island: the Pereyra Theater. Now, the musician and producer opens a new space that combines gastronomy and jazz: Speakeasy.
He starts a new project: a bar, restaurant and concert café in Ibiza. What will you find at Speakeasy?
Speakeasy is the combination of my wife’s soul, gastronomy, and mine, jazz. I founded the Pereyra Theater and worked there for 30 years, every day, no vacations. Then I returned it to ownership and now I have something that is mine. After this time away I thought that, if I went back to work, it had to be in something that is in balance with my soul. And I created this project with my wife.
You became a musician at the piano of the Pereyra Theater, will you continue playing at Speakeasy?
Since I was a child I was very interested in music, but I never took lessons. The lessons have been given to me by all the musicians who have played every night at the Pereyra Theater. Jazz is my music. I have an amazing jazz collection that I’m going to DJ and a piano to play live at Speakeasy. I’m going to be a dj and a musician at the same time, I’m going to play live with the likes of Miles Davis. I’ve had people come in from outside to create an analog hi-fi rig that is incredible.
Music plays a big role, what about gastronomy?
We have a terrace with a simpler cuisine and drinks at affordable prices. The surprise is inside. In the bathroom of the restaurant I have made a very large mirror: behind it you enter a world of dreams like no other. There you can enjoy the gastronomy of the best chef I have ever met: a real cook, not an ego with legs. He presents a gastronomic menu with five passes, where you can find something from the land, something from the sea and a proposal for vegetarians; and another menu of two passes with a high quality sirloin as the protagonist. Both cost 49 euros. We want everyone to be able to come.
It has always gone against the Ibiza of luxury….
Speakeasy, as the Pereyra Theater already was, is going to be a place without VIP areas, without private ones. I am the counterpoint of Platja d’en Bossa. Here you can have a beer for 3,50 euros, or a bottle of water for 2,50. In addition, I have just bought more than 530 bottles of wine from all over the world, some of which nobody has on the island, and even the most expensive ones I am going to sell by the glass. I want those who cannot afford to buy a bottle to be able to say that they have had a Vega Sicilia or a Benjamin de Rothschild, for example.
Ibiza has changed a lot since you arrived in the late 70’s. Do you think that today you would feel again that love affair that led you to stay on the island?
I think so. The magic of Ibiza lives in the land. There is not much construction, really. I live in the most protected natural area of the island, in a little house of 98 meters where only my wife, my piano and I fit. It’s our paradise.He came to the island in the late 70’s, and in the 80’s he opened the Pereyra Theater.
how do you remember that time?
We managed to open the Pereyra Theater and turn it into the social center of the Ibicenco. You could sit on the terrace during the day and have a coffee, which cost 60 pesetas. And many customers would sit there, without consuming anything else, for hours. At night the music came, providing that cultural facet so necessary in any town or city. It was a time when there was no telephone, no fax…
how did the Pereyra Theater change the city of Ibiza in those early years?
Before opening, that whole area was dark. In the Plaza del Parque there were many pine trees and parking lots, there were no shops; in the street of the pharmacies there were only pharmacies; and being an area close to sa Penya there were robberies, drugs…. With the Pereyra Theater that whole area changed: there was light and people 22 hours a day. Everything was revalued.
Thirty years after its opening, the Pereyra was closed, how did that affect your life?
After thirty years working every day, the night of the closing I decided not to go. During the day, I was there crying with friends and clients. After all, the Pereyra Theater was a part of my life. I love the Pereyra. I admire the renovation they have done and wish them well. I have never been jealous or resentful. Besides, a great friend of mine, Nacho Cano, who I consider a musical-artistic heritage of this country, is going to be in charge of the musical production.
You spent more than 80 days in the ICU when you fell ill of covid in 2020. at what vital moment is he in?
I was the first to get covid and I was in a coma for 82 days. When I woke up, I couldn’t move or talk, but I could hear what was being said around me. I thought I would stay like that forever. But I recovered, and a few months later I proposed to my now wife. I’ve been through some complicated times but I’ve never been as happy as I am now. One more reason to start a project like Speakeasy.
For the full article, please visit Diario de Ibiza website here.