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On his latest album, Abdullah Ibrahim hears the world in many 'different colors'

Abdullah Ibrahim
Marina Umari
Courtesy of the artist
Abdullah Ibrahim

In today's session, we have a very special guest: one of jazz's great ambassadors and, perhaps, the finest jazz pianist to hail from South Africa.

Abdullah Ibrahim, who was born in Cape Town in 1934, played with Hugh Masekela in The Jazz Epistles. Together, they became the first Black artists to record a jazz album in South Africa, under pressure from the apartheid government no less.

In the '60s, Ibrahim left South Africa due to apartheid, and a chance connection with Duke Ellington launched his international career. He recorded under the stage name Dollar Brand for many years, before he converted to Islam and took on the name Abdullah Ibrahim.

Now, as the composer and pianist turns 90 years old, he's set to embark on a world tour. As busy as ever, Ibrahim has just released a massive double album, recorded in London, called 3. He joins us to look back on his remarkable career, from ignoring the demands of the South African government to working with Ellington and finding form in the formless.

This episode of World Cafe was produced and edited by Miguel Perez. Our senior producer is Kimberly Junod and our engineer is Chris Williams. Our programming and booking coordinator is Chelsea Johnson and our line producer is Will Loftus.

Copyright 2024 XPN

Miguel Perez
Miguel Perez is a radio producer for NPR's World Cafe, based out of WXPN in Philadelphia. Before that, he covered arts, music and culture for KERA in Dallas. He reported on everything from the rise of NFTs in the music industry to the enduring significance of gay and lesbian bars to the LGBTQ community in North Texas.