IF EVER there was a living legend of jazz, then South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, must surely be right up there; Julliard-educated, rubbing performative shoulders with the likes of Pharoah Sanders, Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and Archie Shepp, he performed at Nelson Mandela’s presidential inauguration after being a forthriht supporter of the ANC through the apartheid years. Famously, Mandela called him “South Africa’s Mozart”.
Abdullah’s birthday concerts at Hirzinger Hall, in Sölinhuben, among the foothills of the German Alps, have also become a legend and a tradition; he graces a hall known for its beautiful acoustics with solo piano recitals annually.
On October 9th last year, due to lockdown, the traditional concert was replaced with the opportunity to record a solo piano performance. The recording crew is sparse, the audience non-existent, yet Abdullah’s communion with the piano is warm and timeless. And Abdullah has released a new recording of “Did You Hear That Sound?”, which you can delight in below. The tune first appeared on his Dollar Brand Quartet’s 1979 album Africa – Tears And Laughter.
To add to his accolades, Abdullah was recently awarded The Order of the Rising Sun by the Japanese government, one of the country’s top honours, in recognition of his lifetime achievement in emancipating the people of South Africa and the world through his music, as well as his contribution to Japan-South African friendship through his works, performances and profound understanding of Japanese culture and spirituality. The ceremony is available to watch here.
He’s also announced a new video masterclass series in which he digs into his playing and songwriting techniques on the piano, giving new insight into his artistic practice and the writing of some of his most beloved songs. You can watch the introduction video for the series here; more information is available here.