Abdullah Ibrahim


Born Adolph Johannes Brand in 1934, Abdullah Ibrahim is a legendary South African jazz pianist and composer who first rose to prominence using the name Dollar Brand. After being part of the Jazz Epistles and the King Kong musical, he went into exile in 1962 with his soon-to-be wife, jazz singer Bea Benjamin, soon settling in Zurich, along with Ibrahim's trio of bassist Johnny Gertze and drummer Makhaya Ntshoko. Impressed by a live performance in February 1963, Duke Ellington produced their first album, 'Duke Ellington Presents the Dollar Brand Trio', which ensured the band became regulars on the European jazz circuit.

Brand and Benjamin married in London in 1965 and moved to New York. They returned to Cape Town in 1968 and converted to Islam, changing their names to Abdullah Ibrahim and Sathima Bea Benjamin. After time Swaziland, they again returned to Cape Town in 1973. Ibrahim released the iconic 'Mannenberg' the following year, inspired by the forced removals from District Six, which helped define the Cape jazz sound. In 1976, shortly after June 16, the family returned once more to New York. Ibrahim openly joined the ANC and his SA citizenship was abruptly cancelled. Ibrahim has released numerous albums and also wrote the soundtracks for a number of films, including 'Chocolat' (1988), and 1990's 'No Fear, No Die'.

In 1990 Nelson Mandela, freed from prison, invited him to come home to South Africa. The fraught emotions of reacclimatizing are reflected in 'Mantra Modes' (1991), his first recording with South African musicians since 1976, and 'Knysna Blue' (1993). He memorably performed at Mandela’s inauguration in 1994. Since returning he has lived in Cape Town, and now divides his time between his global concert circuit, New York and South Africa. He also founded the M7 academy for musicians in Cape Town and was the initiator of the Cape Town Jazz Orchestra, an 18-piece big band launched in September 2006. Ibrahim continues to perform both locally and internationally.


ZACape Town, South Africa


Gert Pfankuch
Profile added by DJ Okapi on 29 May 2014