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  • Nov 29 2022 - 7:00 pm

The South African Piano legend Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand) graces Berlin with a show as part of the JAW concert series.

Back to basics, back to the way it was. Following music giants like Pharoah Sanders or Doug & Jean Carn who blessed J.A.W in the past, we’re more than thrilled to welcome yet another living legend in Berlin - pianist, composer & multi instrumentalist Abdullah Ibrahim, formerly known as Dollar Brand - who shaped the musical landscape of South Africa like barely any other figure of the 20th century and still gets cited as a major influence by many young musicians today. For the occasion Abdullah Ibrahim will play a solo piano concert in this one of a kind, historical venue doubling as one the city’s best sounding recording-spaces: the RBB Sendesaal at Haus des Rundfunks.

Where do you begin with a man like Abdullah Ibrahim? Born in Cape Town in 1934, the pianist and composer decided to flee the South African apartheid regime in 1962 and was discovered shortly after by none other than Duke Ellington in a small Zurich jazz club. After recording sessions with Ellington in Paris, still under Ibrahim's 'Dollar Brand' stage name, the "Duke Ellington presents the Dollar Brand Trio" LP was released in 1963, which secured the young man a firm foothold in the international jazz scene. After 3 years in Europe and several appearances at local jazz festivals, he moved to New York in 1965 where he was to spend the next 30 years of his life in exile. During that time he played and socialized with jazz legends such as Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders and Cecil Taylor. This influence, paired with a growing unease with the events taking place in his home country, significantly shaped Ibrahim's 1970s output. Albums like "Underground in Africa" (1974) combined his more traditional, folk-oriented jazz with modern fusion and rock elements. At the same time, song titles became increasingly political, with titles like "Mannenberg" (also 1974) addressing the expulsion of the black population from the townships of the Cape Flats. The song thus became one of the most concise anthems of the anti-apartheid movement.

Even though Ibrahim's work is strongly influenced by his personal career as a South African living in exile, the ears of all music listeners tend to open when Abdullah Ibrahim sits down at the piano. With a career spanning more than 70 years and a life that has taken place in almost every part of the world, Ibrahim's style has refined and finally decelerated over the years. Where despair and anger dominated Ibrahim’s early output, he now focuses on calm and determination. The solo album "Solotude", which was recorded in the lockdown-year 2020, reflects this in a unique way: with only a handful of microphones and sound engineers in the studio, Ibrahim sat down at the instrument of his choice - the piano - and recorded both old and new pieces in an unprecedented intimacy. At moments it feels like you are sitting right in the piano and you can feel every key stroke yourself. Today, 2 years after Solotude and exactly 60 years after his exile migration, we are looking forward to spend a moment with the Cape Jazz Maestro ourselves.