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Interview: Morris Goldberg - Ojoyo's Morris Goldberg

2006-03-29 11:03

Jean Barker, MWEB: So, Ojoyo? I looked it up but nobody could tell me what it meant. Is it a made up word?
Morris Goldberg:
No, it just means joy, African style. Ojoyo.

MWEB: Safrojazz - is that also a term you invented?
MG: Actually, my wife invented that term. It just seems to apply to the music that I've been writing and that we play.

MWEB: And have other bands adopted that category?
MG: [Laughs] Well I've heard them talk about it but I hope they don't use that term because that's my proprietary term.

MWEB: You left South Africa. Why?
MG: It was to further my career, and also things were getting fairly stifling in South Africa at that time. I left here and went to England for a while. And then to New York, to study.

MWEB: You work for a lot of South Africans overseas. You're part of a large South African musical community who live and work overseas.
MG: Yes, as a matter of fact, the band that I'm bringing over, we're all based in New York but we're all from South Africa. And we play Safrojazz, South African flavoured jazz in New York, and keep that music alive here.

MWEB: What qualities does it take to make it all over the world?
MG: Well, you don't choose what you do. What you do chooses you. And you just have to devote all your energy and your time to it. You have to work hard, practise hours a day, and then maybe. Something might happen.

MWEB: When people hear you're from South Africa, what is their response to that?
MG: Well it depends when it happens. In the 80s it was negative, you know, a lot because of the Apartheid situation. In the 90s and now it's very positive. And the response to the music is very positive. I think the music is very uplifting. That's why I called my band Ojoyo, for the joyful sound.

MWEB: You fuse kwela, smooth jazz influences... you mix quite a lot.
MG: Yes, that's why we call it Safrojazz. I grew up listening to American jazz and South African music was all around me. So when I formed the group, my writing was definitely influenced by the music from home and American jazz.

MWEB: Are you quite a close knit band?
MG: We do other things, but there's a very close affinity with us. We're all from there, from South Africa, and there's that bond, definitely.

- Jean Barker

Cape Town-born and American-educated Jazz great Morris Goldberg, heads the South African and American jazz-fusion outfit; Ojoyo, featuring Bakithi Kumalo, Tony Cedras and Anton Fig. They're all expats, now based in New York. Goldberg has recorded and performed with almost every highly acclaimed Jazz musician across the world. This includes names like Harry Belafonte, Sankomota, Hugh Masekela, Letta Mbulu and Miriam Makeba.

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