9 October 2011

The South African jazz pianist, Abdullah Ibrahim

Abdullah Ibrahim
Abdullah Ibrahim
'Since he first fled South Africa in 1962, Ibrahim's increasingly spiritual and meditative jazz has won followers across Europe, the US and Japan and made him an icon at home. In the 50s as Dollar Brand (he took the name Abdullah Ibrahim in the 60s when he converted to Islam), he led Cape Town's short-lived flowering of bebop-inspired jazz. When the apartheid clampdown came, he became one of the most successful, and - with some 100 albums - prolific, musicians in the exodus, alongside the singer Miriam Makeba and the trumpeter Hugh Masekela.

For Rob Allingham, a music historian and archivist at Gallo records in Johannesburg, Ibrahim was unique in "making it in the international jazz world without qualifications". A protege of Duke Ellington, he developed free-form jazz in New York in the 60s, playing with John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry. Yet his fusion draws on Cape Town roots. Nigel Williamson, a music critic and compiler of a recent Ibrahim retrospective CD, says that "more than anyone else, Ibrahim united African roots with 20th-century American jazz; he's always had a profound sense that jazz is African music". Ellington told him: "You're blessed because you come from the source."'

If you like jazz, even a little, you must get some Abdullah Ibrahim (visit this link and click on "listen to samples") for yourself. Listening to him, I hear African choral music and American jazz all at once. 2002's African Magic is one of my favourites. Mr Ibrahim was born on 9 October 1934.


Steve Hayes said...

I was privileged to have attended a concert he gave in Johannesburg City Hall (now the Gauteng legislature) before he left the country -- on 15 September 1961.

Nearly 30 years later I was waiting at the airport for someone else, and there was some clapping and cheering, and who should walk through the door but Abdullah Ibrahim, home from exile at last. That was serendipity.

Rethabile said...

I have unfortunately never heard him live. Just records, and more records. Mannenburg has always stayed with me.

geoffreyphilp101@gmail.com said...

Rethabile, give thanks for this!


PaulS said...

There is wonderful confluence, an inevitable spirituality in jazz. It can only be about freedom, you cannot love jazz and not love freedom. There is a joy in life and a beauty in sorrow in jazz that is a spritual aesthetic. A redemption, almost.

Lyrically speaking said...

I do like jazz but knew nothing of this musician until now, thanks for this post, I most definitely will check out his work

david santos said...

Happy birthdat, Abdullah Ibrahin!
Util Always, Abdullah.

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Paul said...

Thelonious Monk is the man in my opinion, but Ibrahim is good too.

John B. said...


I've posted a recording of a solo concert by Abdullah Ibrahim here:


gel said...

Hi R,
I LOVE jazz and welcome a great reason to explore musicians new to me. (Although judging from your writeup of who he has played with, I have a strong feeling I have heard him play and not realized it.)
I hope his birthday is superb.
(Please note: I have moved my website- yes again and hopefully for the last time.)

Rethabile said...

Great dude with magic fingers. I'm checking out your new abode asap.

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