A fitting title for his dedication to the genre and a career which spans nearly 70 years and shows no signs of slowing down.
The country’s most distinguished pianist, Abdullah Ibrahim, is returning to Cape Town for two solo concerts, Water from an Ancient Well, at the Fugard Theatre on Heritage Day.
“Cape Town has a deep and vibrant heritage cosmology from the first inhabitants to the subsequent arrival of settlers from all over the world.
“Jazz is a contemporary expression of the ancient tradition of praise songs and social issues,” he said.
Ibrahim said he was finalising which songs he would be playing.
“Possibly older reworked songs, such as Krotoa.”
He would also perform some of his popular compositions as well as new compositions.
The 83-year-old said his music had evolved over the years and he was enthusiastic about the next generation.
“South Africa is producing some remarkable young musicians. Music is always changing,” he said.
He reflected on his childhood in District Six where he took his first piano lessons and attended school.
“District Six like so many of its counterparts all over South Africa was home to the gathering of traditions of cultures, brought together by their destinies into a melting pot of diversity.
“District Six was home for remarkable experiences that shaped my life and music,” he said.
After leaving Cape Town in the 1960s for New York, he briefly returned during the 1970s, before remaining exiled until the 1990s.
Even though Ibrahim is based in Europe where he regularly tours from country to country, he still calls Cape Town home.
“I never really leave Cape Town, wherever I am. Coming to do concerts in Cape Town is confirmation and a constant re-examination of the self, especially in the restructuring of the compositions that hold my individual and collective experiences,” he said.
The 2019 Jazz Masters was conferred by the National Endowment for the Arts in the US. Since 1982, the organisation has recognised artists who have made exceptional contributions to the advancement of jazz.
Ibrahim’s work will be celebrated in a ceremony at the Kennedy Centre in Washington, DC in April.
“I dedicate the award to my grandmothe, who 80 years ago sent me for piano lessons with the local school teacher in Cape Town, and to all the people and mentors who through the years have supported me.”
Ibrahim said he had no plans to retire from performing.