Abdullah Ibrahim celebrated his 80th birthday last year.
Prior to converting to Islam at the end of the 1960s, Abdullah Ibrahim was known as Dollar Brand. He played together with jazz pioneers in his homeland South Africa, came to Europe with a tour of the musical King Kong, and was busy building up his career in Switzerland when he was discovered by Duke Ellington. Ellington was so impressed with his abilities that he promptly launched him in the rest of the continent and later also in the US, and clear influences of Ellington are thus often to be heard in Ibrahim’s compositions. His music is moreover extremely accessible; melody is important for Ibrahim, even more than the musicians’ virtuosity. The pianist has become more contemplative in his more recent work, with evocative and sensitive melody lines: Ibrahim’s narrative force can be found both in Mukashi (2014) and in The Song Is My Story (2015). On Mukashi (Japanese for “Once upon a time…”) we encounter the pianist in a rather nostalgic mood, in which memories of his homeland and his musical background, as well as a fascination for Japanese culture, emerge.