100 World Class South Africans: Abdullah Ibrahim

World jazz maestro

In 1973 Abdullah Ibrahim recorded five albums.

Having launched his music career in 1960 as Dollar Brand, he already had eight records to his name.

But he had a lot more he wanted to say.

The five titles give an indication of his headspace: Good News From Africa, Sangoma, African Portraits, African Space Program and African Sketchbook.

Themes of homecoming and liberation abounded in the tracks – fitting for a musician in exile.

Born in Cape Town, Ibrahim had struggled as a black musician, so in 1962 he moved to Zurich where he became a club pianist.

Two years later he’d signed with Duke Ellington in Paris, and from there began a prolific international career.

By 1998 he’d released another 10 albums and composed Mindif, the jazz soundtrack for the French film Chocolat (his credits: piano, flute and voice).

Audiences worldwide took note, filling out seats in renowned venues like Carnegie Hall in New York.

Back from exile in SA, he played at Mandela’s inauguration.

Hailed as one of the most gifted jazz musicians in history, Ibrahim has now recorded over 100 albums.

The titles continue to reveal where his head and heart lie – his latest, in 2010, is called Sotho Blue.

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