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Interview Morris Goldberg

Morris Goldberg is an American based jazz musician. He was born in Cape Town. Morris has played a central role in SA jazz and has had many musical meetings that have informed his ‘Safro' musical sound.

When Morris returned to South Africa in '66 he lived in Cape Town for 7 months and played a lot With Mankunku in Green Point. When I asked him about that he said, “Winston's sound, is so personal.”

Morris performed on Abdullah Ibrahim's 1974 recording of Mannenberg. I asked him what it was like to be a part of South Africa's previous 'golden era. He said:

Music in general has been used to change things over the years. Music to art, everything can evolve through searching for something new. I don't think we knew the 1950's was going to be called a golden period: there was a definite aura and era of creativity. You say it was the golden period yet it was hard to create. In that time did anyone say it was a golden period? There are certainly a lot of creative young people today.


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Morris lives in America and his music is rooted in South Africa. He calls it Safro Jazz. Safro Jazz incorporates all the different aspects of SA jazz; Xhosa Jazz, Cape Jazz, marabi and kwela. On answering the question what is South African Jazz, he said,

Can Someone from Finland write South African music? It is influenced by where we come from and where we grow up. When you grow up you grow up with the sounds and the sites and those sounds stay in your head. The sounds you grew up with in Cape Town are embedded in your subconscious; work songs, penny whistle players and choral groups. As an artist you have to have a good memory and assimilate different kinds of sounds. I hear something in my head and I write it. As an artist you are aware of your surroundings like Bartok based his music on the folk songs he heard. The Cape Samba comes from the Portuguese. Cape Town is a real mix of cultures like New Orleans. There is also the influence of your family. My family came from Lithuania so I grew up with jazz records and Yiddish musical theatre and American country music which was the biggest music played in South Africa!

There is a sound of South African jazz: accenting the 'and' of the 4 and there is a church influence. Kwela is akin to something with a jazzy do-op feel to it; some people call it the 4 bar blues. You only have 12 notes so what changes more is the rhythm and the harmonic structure.

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