WORLD-RENONWED jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim.
WORLD-RENONWED jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim.

Japanese government bestows top honour on Abdullah Ibrahim

By Mpiletso Motumi Time of article published May 4, 2020

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World-renowned musician Abdullah Ibrahim is among the recipients of the Japan 2020 Spring Imperial Decoration.

The government of Japan announced the foreign recipients last week.

The world famous pianist will receive the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays in recognition of his lifetime achievement in emancipating the people of South Africa and the world through his piano, as well as his contribution to Japan-South African friendship through his works, performances and profound understanding of Japanese culture and spirituality.

Ibrahim has received multiple international awards after starting his career at the age of 15.

The 85-year-old spent most of his time throughout his music activities in the US, Europe and in South Africa, consistently fighting strongly against racism and injustices.

His composition, Mannenberg was loved and regarded as an informal national anthem of the people of South Africa in the difficult days.

Ibrahim has a deep understanding of Japanese culture and spirituality through his long-time engagement with Budo.

He has been conferred full mastership from the grandmaster Yukio Tonegawa of the Bujutsu Kodosoku-Kai Yakami-ryu Taijutsu. Ibrahim, who used to have his own dojo in Cape Town, is the first non-Japanese master of Yakami-Ryu.

He has performed in many concerts in Japan, including the ones at the Unesco World Heritage Site, Kamigamo Shrine in Kyoto (2003, 2006, 2010, 2015 and 2019). 

Ibrahim performed in celebration of the centenary of the Japanese Consulate in Cape Town, the oldest Japanese mission in Africa, on Heritage Day in 2018, which was reported widely by NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) to the people of Japan. 

His beliefs on unity in human mind, body and nature culminate into the concept of “Satoyama” - a sustainable coexistence of human beings and nature. 

It also relates to the sentiment of awe and respect toward nature in African tradition. The deep insights by this wise man of Africa resonate with many people in Japan and have contributed to a mutual understanding between the people of Japan and the people of South Africa over the years. The most recent performance of Ibrahim in Japan was in September, during the Rugby World Cup.

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