Simba Morri - The Man and His Music - A Brief History
- For the Hidden Years Music Archive Project. (Currently on Tour - for March & April 2002 in the Western & Eastern Cape)
After completing his schooling in Kenya SIMBA MORRI came to South Africa in 1981 to study social anthropology. Within a week of his arrival - & unable to speak any English in those days - he played his first date at 3rd Ear Music's Chelsea Theatre Underground in Hillbrow. He was an instant hit with the Johannesburg crowds & soon devoted himself full-time to musical activities. By 1983 he was singing at political gatherings & cultural evenings at varsities around South Africa.
His first band MAPUNTSULA attained cult status amongst the trendy Johannesburg music set of the era and were featured on the SHIFTY RECORDS anti-conscription campaign compilation FORCES FAVOURITES, along with JENNIFER FERGUSON, THE CHERRY-FACED LURCHERS (James Phillips), The KALAHARI SURFERS, ROGER LUCEY, STAN JAMES and others. Forces Favourites found no favour with the authorities & the SABC at the time because it satirized the lunchtime programme, of the same name, aimed at the armed forces. SIMBA was by then a regular & popular performer at the legendary JAMESON'S NIGHT CLUB in Commissioner Street.
The WASAMATA project along with Mozambique bassist GITO BOLOI & drummer IAN HERMAN (both subsequently went on to form TANANAS with STEVE NEWMAN) was followed by a fascinating live collaboration with renowned people's poet MZWAKE MBULI. SIMBA contributed his composition skills, guitar and vocal to MZWAKE's albums CHANGE IS PAIN in 1986 & UNBROKEN SPIRIT in 1989. SIMBA recorded his first 3rd EAR MUSIC album in their mobile Airstream Caravan studio in Durban 1990. In 1994 two popular songs from the album were used in kwaZulu Natal as official Election tunes - Celebrating Life & Unity combined a cross-cultural host of musicians who were about to vote in South Africa's first ever democratic elections - from a Penny Whistle street busker, to legends of Jazz & Maskandi - with visiting stars from Zimbabwe, Swaziland & Mozambique.
SIMBA MORRI PLAYS his own unique brand of cross-cultural music, which he calls Mashariki Muziki - an exotic mix of melodic African tunes that crisscross with a combination of rhythms from West Coast hi-life, embracing elements of East Coast benga, Central African socca, Zimbabwean chimurenmga, Southern African mbaqanga and township jive, with a hint of reggae and a touch of the blues. And if that is not enough this intriguing blend is overlaid with the distinctive tropical Creole feel of Palm Wine music.
Evocative and infectious, SIMBA MORRI has a churning and driving strumming technique, which can transform a four-minute tune into a 20-minute danceable groove. In fact when things are really cooking, songs can jam on - much to the delight of the dancers' & audience - for 30 to 40 minutes. Hearing SIMBA live is indeed a fantastic experience - you can't help getting caught up in the party vibe music. The energy just makes you wanna dance.
SIMBA can play it gentle too, creating a romantic ambience of warm tropical moonlit nights and swaying palm trees. His Mashariki Muziki is vibrant - it's refreshing - it is food for the soul.
SIMBA has played a host of venues, clubs, pubs and shows such as KIPPIES, THE BAXTER, BASELINE, TANDOOR, TEKWENI JUNCTION, FUNKY's, AFRICAN NITES to mention a few & was the highlight at the 1995 SPLASHY FEN where he headlined the opening night with a memorable extended set that had the crowd boogying and baying for more.
But significantly, deeply socially aware, SIMBA takes his music to a much wider audience spectrum. Apart from university concerts, cultural festivals, political fund-raisers, concerts for Institute of Race Relations and Operation Hunger, he has performed at events such as Annual General Conference of the Farmworkers Research and Resource Project and National Institute for Community Education Conference.
In 1994 SIMBA performed at the African Arts Exhibition in Seoul, South Korea. On the African continent SIMBA has performed in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Malawi and visits his home in Kenya whenever he can. Simba's interactive nature, his openness to the experience of life from his diverse travels all contribute to the unique musical hybrid he produces.
Mild-mannered and humble, this non-smoker, non-drinker is a wonderfully warm and radiant spiritual Troubadour. Knowledgeable and articulate, SIMBA is conversant in Swahili, English and Shona. In Soweto he still conducts music workshops and acts as invigilator, assessor and accreditor for 2nd and 3rd year students.