Ivan Muir from Nivara Lounge
by Ian Duggan
In 1916 Hamilton’s Band Rotunda first started hosting bands. Moving forward 100 years, and just down the road, Hamilton’s primary band venue today is Nivara Lounge. We talked to Ivan Muir, the owner of Nivara Lounge, about his vision for the venue, how he got into music, and where the Nivara Lounge name came from.
HUP: Ivan, firstly, what is your vision for Nivara Lounge?
Ivan: I see Nivara Lounge as a music hub. I’m trying to have live music, and I am selling records and t-shirts here. I want people to come down and have coffee and cake with things going on in the background. They might not even like what they see, but I want them to just experience it. Many people don’t like jazz, but I still want them to experience it. For people to see how they get the different sounds out of their instruments, and think “oh, that’s how they get that sound”.
Bands come and play originals down here. I have had teachers, lawyers and rubbish collectors come and play. Young bands can play here. I just love live music. I shut at 12, which lets bands from Auckland get home at a reasonable time. A venue can’t do it without the bands, and bands can’t do it without the venue. It’s a win-win for everyone. I would love to get to the point to hire staff. I’m never going to get rich from it, but I don’t class it as ‘work’.
HUP: You opened ‘Jazz, Blues Concept’ (a.k.a. J.B.C.) in 1997 on the same site that Nivara Lounge is in today, converting an old pool hall into a venue. You met a series of challenges there, and around 2000 you had to shut your doors. What are some of the lessons you learnt from running J.B.C that you are using to ensure the success of Nivara Lounge?
Ivan: Primarily, I run it as a business first instead of a hobby… even though it is. We are open four nights a week instead of seven, and I am running it as a one man band, except for some friends who work for free.
HUP: What made you want to go back to the same site, rather than somewhere else?
Ivan: The main reason is I have a passion for live music, and it is a great room for sound. Other than that, they are building a concourse with an amphitheatre next door with a few restaurants and cafes around it. I knew this was happening before I went back into the site, but it was supposed to be finished two years ago. It should be finished in May.
Ivan: It sounds like a cop out, but I have no preferred genre. Jazz is up there, but I like all music. I enjoy all types of live entertainment. It enriches ones life and takes you on a journey. I had five sisters and they took me to concerts; Leo Sayer, the Beach Boys, David Bowie, Rod Stewart. That’s how I got into music.
HUP: Where did the name 'Nivara Lounge' come from?
Ivan: I had used the [Nivara] name at a previous time, as Nivara Promotions. I wrote my full name down, Ivan James Muir, moved the letters around and removed some. I’m really pleased I got all of the letters from ‘Ivan’ in there.