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29-06-1948 - 01-09-2012


altsaxofoon, concertinas, fluit, improvised, jazz, klarinet, sopraansaxofoon, tenorsaxofoon, ukulele


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Sean Bergin

Ever since his arrival from his native country of South Africa Sean Bergin (Durban, South Africa 29 June 1948 - Amsterdam, 1 September 2012) has been playing a major role in Dutch improvised music. He introduces the music of composers from his homeland, like Abdullah Ibrahim, Dudu Pukwana and Chris ...
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altsaxofoon, concertinas, fluit, klarinet, sopraansaxofoon, tenorsaxofoon, ukulele

Mentioned in the biography of

1952   Alan Purves
1975   Ernst Reijseger
1975   Harry Miller
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Biography Sean Bergin

Ever since his arrival from his native country of South Africa Sean Bergin (Durban, South Africa 29 June 1948 - Amsterdam, 1 September 2012) has been playing a major role in Dutch improvised music. He introduces the music of composers from his homeland, like Abdullah Ibrahim, Dudu Pukwana and Chris McGregor. His always passionate playing makes him an in demand sideman in various groups, until he starts his MOB (My Own Band) in 1986. Here he proves himself to be a formidable composer who manages to combine his South African roots and typically Dutch improvised music. He writes for individuals, and his band therefore is a collection of remarkable musicians. From the very beginning singing has played an important role in his work, and he doesn't belie his theatrical background. He builds on those two elements in later versions of the MOB, the Song MOB, and the New MOB. In 2000 Bergin is awarded the VPRO/Boy Edgar Prijs (the major Dutch jazz award) for his achievements. After being ill for some time, he dies on 1 September 2012, 64 years old.

Played in

Boi Akih   saxofoon

1975 - 1978

Sean Bergin comes to Amsterdam with the Friends Roadshow theater company to play at the Festival of Fools. He stays in the Dutch capital, and soon gets to know Amsterdam musicians like bassist Arjen Gorter and drummer Martin van Duynhoven. Pianist Burton Greene asks him to join his large group New Age Jazz Chorale, with which Bergin makes his Dutch recording debut. In this group he gets to meet cellist Ernst Reijseger. Together they record the duo album Mistakes; they can also be seen on television in the Dutch version of the children's program Sesame Street. With Reijseger and Van Duynhoven Bergin forms the Goma Fewtet, and saxophonist Theo Loevendie asks him to join his Consort.

Burton Greene Ernst Reijseger Martin van Duynhoven Theo Loevendie


The American cellist Tristan Honsinger, who has just arrived in the Netherlands, befriends Bergin, and they start doing free improvisations (for Bergin this is the first time he tries his hand at it). Honsinger also tips Misha Mengelberg about his South African friend; the pianist asks Bergin for the Instant Composers Pool.

Instant Composers Pool Tristan Honsinger


Bergin moves to Italy, to join his friend Honsinger, who is already living there. A year later they record their duo album Lavoro at the cellist's house. In this the two also initiate the improvised musical theater they will later expand with the group This, That & The Other.

1981 - 1986

In addition to the ICP Sean Bergin also becomes a member of other prominent groups from the Dutch improvised music scene, like JC Tans and His Rockets (later: JC Tans Orchestra), the Harry Miller Quintet, Willem van Manen's Springband and Ernst Glerum's New Klookabilities. Musical theater maker Teo Joling asks him to perform music for his production Wortelgok. The Amsterdam bar De Engelbewaarder starts doing sessions, and Bergin becomes a regular. Later on he will start leading these sessions. From the nineties bassist Jacko Schoonderwoerd and drummer Victor de Boo become his regular partners in this.

Ernst Glerum Harry Miller Jan Cees Tans Willem Van Manen


For the first time he forms his own group, My Own Band, or simply MOB, a large ensemble, for which he writes most of the repertoire, adding compositions by fellow-countrymen like Dollar Brand (Abdullah Ibrahim), Chris McGregor and Mervyn Africa. A year later the band's debut CD Kids Mysteries is issued by American expat Tom Albach's Nimbus-label.

1988 - 1994

The South African (and England based) drummer Louis Moholo asks him to join his group Viva La Black. In 1991 the ensemble tours their native country. In 1992 and 1996 Bergin returns there with the same band. In 1994 the drummer also invites him to the Dedication Orchestra, a big band dedicated to playing Moholo's former fellow band members in the South African quintet The Blue Notes (Dudu Pukwana, Chris McGregor, Johnny Dyani and Mongezi Feza). Sean Bergin also contributes some arrangements, and can be heard on the double album Ixesha.


After a concert with the MOB Bergin and the reed players Tobias Delius and Daniele D'Agaro end up in the San Francisco bar on the Amsterdam Zeedijk. When the barkeeper asks them what is in their instrument cases, they take their horns out and start playing. A new trio is born, bearing the name of the establishment: Trio San Francisco. After a while D'Agaro returns to his native Italy, but regularly asks Bergin and Delius (as well as drummer Han Bennink) for his own festival on the Adriatic Sea, where they perform in his Adriatics Orchestra.

Han Bennink Tobias Delius


Sean Bergin receives the major Dutch jazz award: the VPRO/Boy Edgar Prijs. To quote the jury report: 'Bergin mixes South African kwela and other dance rhythms with instant composing techniques, influenced by Misha Mengelberg, and adds Surinam an Caribbean influences to the American jazz elements by way of his band members – as well as a whiff of vaudeville-like theater. The result is a scintillating melting pot music, in which the whole world resounds, but can't be heard anywhere else in the world either.' The artistic director of the Amsterdam Bimhuis, Huub van Riel, introduces Bergin to pianist Mal Waldron, who takes him on board in his new quartet, featuring bassist Arjen Gorter and drummer John Betsch. Later Jean-Jacques Avenel will replace Gorter. The group plays regularly, but never records.


Bergin extends his MOB to the Song MOB, adding vocalists like Britons Phil Minton and Maggie Nichols, and Molla Sylla from Senegal. He also starts a smaller group, called Nansika. This is a quintet interpreting works by his fellow-countrymen like Dollar Brand (Abdullah Ibrahim), Dudu Pukwana, Chris McGregor and Mervyn Africa almost exclusively.


Actor, singer an accordionist Felix Strategier of the Flint Theater Company writes a theatrical work based on the poetry of South African poet Ingrid Jonker: Korreltjie Korreltjie Sand. He asks Sean Bergin to compose the music, which he performs with cellist Ernst Reijseger.


Singing remains an important element in Bergin's compositions. To perform them, he starts a smaller version of the MOB, called the New MOB, in which his daughter, singer Una Bergin, plays a prominent role. The group records the album Chicken Feet at the Bimhuis.

2008 - 2011

Amsterdam based Brazilian guitarist Rogério Bicudo considers Sean Bergin as a musical soulmate. They decide to give small-scale duo concerts, for instance in the bar of the Bimhuis. Two consecutive stints in the recording studio yield the CDs Tale Of Three Cities (2008) and Mixing It (2009).

Rogério Bicudo


On Saturday 1 September Sean Bergin dies in Amsterdam, 64 years old. He had liver trouble for some time. During their gig at the Bimhuis the same day the Instant Composers Pool pays tribute to Bergin.

Discography Sean Bergin

In the discography you will find all recordings that have been released listed chronologically. We restrict ourselves to the title, the type of audio, year of publication or recording, label, list of guest musicians, plus any comments on the issue.

Audio/Video Sean Bergin

Video Sean Bergin

Transatlantic Issues spee...
Transatlantic Issues speelt Beautiful
Sean Bergin & Rogério Bic...
Sean Bergin & Rogério Bicudo - Abdullah Ibrahim/Bombella
Sean Bergin & Rogério Bic...
Sean Bergin & Rogério Bicudo - No More Blues
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Transatlantic Issues speelt Beautiful

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