Jazz legend Abdullah Ibrahim to perform in city

Jazz legend Abdullah Ibrahim will perform on April 14 at SunBet Arena in Pretoria. Picture: Dori Sumter

Jazz legend Abdullah Ibrahim will perform on April 14 at SunBet Arena in Pretoria. Picture: Dori Sumter

Published Apr 4, 2024


Jazz lovers are in for a treat – 89-year-old South African jazz legend, Abdullah Ibrahim, returns home after a five-year absence for a performance on April 14, at the SunBet Arena, Time Square.

From his timeless classics to his latest compositions, Ibrahim's performance transcends boundaries, blending influences from his South African roots with elements of jazz, blues and beyond.

Over the course of his career, Abdullah Ibrahim has performed with the greatest names to ever emerge from South Africa’s legendary jazz scene, including with Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Jonas Gwangwa, Kippie Moeketsi and many more.

Whether you're a seasoned jazz enthusiast or new to the genre, Abdullah Ibrahim's live performance promises to captivate and inspire.

Ibrahim is one of the world’s greatest piano players and composers, of whom former president Nelson Mandela famously said: “Bach, Beethoven…? We’ve got better!”

His life has spanned nine decades and almost every continent. Born and raised in District Six in South Africa, he is the last surviving member of a generation of truly global jazz giants, an elite that included his mentor, Duke Ellington, and the legends with whom he lived and played.

He was at the forefront of playing bebop with a Cape Town flavour and in 1958, saw the formation of the Dollar Brand Trio.

His groundbreaking septet, the Jazz Epistles, formed in 1959 (with saxophonist Kippie Moeketsi, trumpeter Hugh Masekela, trombonist Jonas Gwanga, bassist Johnny Gertze and drummer Makaya Ntshoko), recorded the first jazz album by South African musicians.

That same year, he met and first performed with vocalist Sathima Bea Benjamin and they were to marry six years later.

After the notorious Sharpeville massacre of 1960, mixed-race bands and audiences were defying the increasingly strict apartheid laws, and jazz symbolised resistance, so the government closed a number of clubs and harassed the musicians.

Some members of the Jazz Epistles went to England with the musical “King Kong” and stayed in exile.

These were difficult times in which to sustain musical development in South Africa. In 1962, with Nelson Mandela imprisoned and the ANC banned, Dollar Brand and Sathima Bea Benjamin left the country, joined later by the other trio members Gertze and Ntshoko, and took up a three-year contract at the Club Africana in Zürich.

There, in 1963, Sathima persuaded Duke Ellington to listen to them play, which led to a recording session in Paris – Duke Ellington presents the Dollar Brand Trio – and invitations to perform at key European festivals and on television and radio during the next two years.

In 1990, president Mandela, freed from prison, invited Ibrahim to come home to South Africa. The fraught emotions of acclimatising are reflected in Mantra Modes (1991), the first recording with South African musicians since 1976, and in Knysna Blue (1993). He memorably performed at Mandela’s inauguration in 1994.

A martial arts black belt with a lifelong interest in Zen philosophy, Ibrahim takes every opportunity to visit his master on trips to Japan.

“Karate is a derivative of the original Chinese traditional forms and has been an important part of my life for a long time,” Ibrahim said.

In 2003, he performed at charity concerts at temples in Kyoto and Shizuoka, with the proceeds going to the M7 Academy. Abdullah Ibrahim remains at his zenith, as a musician and a tireless initiator of new projects.

In his own words: “Some do it because they have to do it. We do it because we want to, so we do not require much sleep, so we have to do it.”

The recipient of many awards and honorary doctorates, spiritually strong as both teacher and disciple, Professor Abdullah Ibrahim is said to be a true inheritor of the ancestral name Senzo.

Pretoria News