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Abdullah Ibrahim: Mukashi (Once upon a time)

Gabriel Medina Arenas By

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Japan and South Africa were never so close. The acclaimed pianist and flautist Abdullah Ibrahim fused the Asian zen calmness with stories and inspiration from his native homeland in his latest album Mukashi.

Mukashi translates in Japanese as "Once upon a time" is a very appropriate title considering Ibrahim's impressive storytelling skills, as well as the visual evocations of the record.

"Krotoa" is one of the most interesting tracks of the album and it is split in three. Krotoa is the name of a 17th Century Cape Town young girl from the tribe of the Khoikhoi in South Africa and the melody is about her encounters with the European settlers.

The most surprising and emotional part of "Krotoa" is a solo piano track titled "Endurance." Its sound evokes perfectly the resilience of South Africans against the Apartheid, which Ibrahim opposed since the beginning of his career. In fact, Nelson Mandela's lawyer smuggled some of Ibrahim's music to jail when he was imprisoned. Mandela was inspired in melodies like "Mannenberg" to keep on fighting for equal rights for the colored community in the 70's and 80's.

"Serenity" is one of the most interesting melodies of the record. Ibrahim plays luminous notes on his piano, while Cleave Guyton brings a sound that fluctuates between warm and mysterious.

The influence of American Jazz and culture in Ibrahim's music can be better appreciated in "Mississippi," in which Cleave Guyton's clarinet is the lead instrument and he plays it joyfully. Ibrahim's piano serves as a loyal and wise companion.

Abdullah Ibrahim—whose birth name is Adolph Johannes Brand—also included "Peace" in his album. The theme's description "the ebb and flow of nature" is coherent with the delicate sheets of sound in the piece.

"Trace Elements / For Monk" is dedicated to the late pianist Thelonius Monk, an Ibrahim friend and one of his main influences, as well as Duke Ellington.

The sweet sound of Cleave Guyton's flute is guided by Scott Roller's cello in "The Balance," the last melody of Mukashi. The tracks is really a lullaby and a sonic balm for the soul. Ibrahim seems to be waving and smiling, while he plays scarce but beautiful notes on his piano.

Mukashi's sound is virtuous without being pretentious, just like Abdullah Ibrahim, considered by many critics the King of South African Jazz.

Track Listing: Mukashi; Dream Time; The Stars Will Remember; Serenity; Mississippi; Peace; Matzikama; Cara Mia; Root; Trace Elements for Monk; Krotoa; Crystal Clear; Devotion; Endurance; In the Evening; Essence; The Balance

Personnel: Abdullah Ibrahim: piano, flute, vocals; Cleave Guyton: saxophone, flute, clarinet; Eugen Bazijan: cello; Scott Roller: cello

Title: Mukashi (Once upon a time) | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records

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