A South African inspiration returns

29 October 2008

Musical genius and beacon of South African pride Abdullah Ibrahim will again perform for his loyal local fans. With a history of world-class concert appearances and a worldwide fan base, Ibrahim is returning home to inspire.

The pianist and composer will perform his new solo piano piece, entitled “Senzo”, meaning “ancestor” in both Chinese and Japanese, at the Artscape in Cape Town on 1 November, at Durban’s Jazz Centre on 5 and 6 November, and at the Wits Great Hall in Johannesburg on 7 November.

“‘Senzo’ is a journey through sound – striving towards our individual and collective home,” says Ibrahim.

Longtime followers of Ibrahim will find themselves amply rewarded with his live show. Built around the Abdullah Ibrahim Trio that has been breathing life into the performer’s repetoire for the past 12 years, the show features Ibrahim on piano and New Yorkers Belden Bullock and George Gray on bass and drums respectively.

The shows will give Ibrahim’s fans a chance to see him perform the solo piano concerts that have drawn rapt responses when performed in the most important venues worldwide, including Carnegie Hall in New York, the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Barbican in London and the Berlin Philharmonic Hall.

Other unique solo piano concert venues have included the Kamigamo Shrine in Kyoto, Japan – a first ever performance at the historic monastery and a tribute to the importance of Zen philosophy and the martial arts in Ibrahim’s life. The latter has seen Ibrahim earn a “Menkyo Kaiden” (an 8th degree black belt and a licence to teach) through his 40 years study with Great Grand Master Soke Tonegawa Sensei in Japan.

An African musical genius

Born in Cape Town in 1934, Ibrahim has been described as a South African icon, an African genius and an internationally revered piano player by critics.

As a child, Ibrahim remembers listening to traditional African songs, religious music and jazz – all of which are reflected in his music. He received his first piano lessons in 1941 and became a professional musician in 1949 playing for the Tuxedo Slickers and, later, the Willie Max Big Band

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In 1959 he met alto saxophonist Kippi Moeketsi, who convinced him to devote his life to music. His international music career blossomed in 1962 when the Dollar Brand Trio (with Johnny Gertze on bass and Makaya Ntshoko on percussion) toured Europe.

What followed was a marathon tour of Europe, the United States and Japan with appearances at major music festivals of the world in Montreux, North Sea, Berlin, Paris and Montreal.

Mannenberg

In the mid-1970s, Ibrahim came back to South Africa. In June 1974, Abdullah Ibrahim, with Robbie Jansen, Basil Coetzee, Monty Weber, Morris Goldberg and Paul Michaels, recorded what was to become a beloved anthem in South Africa – Mannenberg.

The album was recorded against a backdrop of forced removals as the apartheid government finalised its destruction of District Six in Cape Town, evicting coloured families from homes throughout the city. The title-track, “Mannenberg”, fused Cape jazz with African marabi to produce a melody that became a beloved anthem of hope and resistance for many South Africans.

In 1976, Ibrahim returned to the United States because of the unfavourable political atmosphere in South Africa during that time.

Returning to South Africa in 1990, Ibrahim embarked on numerous music projects, including a symphonic piece at the renowned Herkules Saal in Munich, Germany, and a premiere of “Cape Town Traveller”, a multi-media production at the Leipzig music festival in 1999.

Source: City of Johannesburg