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Abdullah Ibrahim: The Song Is My Story

James Nadal By

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Blessed is the artist who has reached the zenith of his craft, and endured to reap the rewards, becoming the wise elder reflecting upon a lifetime of creative accomplishment. Having left an impressive body of work, he still greets the dawn with exuberance and optimism. Pianist Abdullah Ibrahim is such an artist. As a consummate and dedicated musician, he blazed a trail from the tumultuous townships of Capetown, South Africa to the premier concert halls of the world, and remains a humble servant of the music, which is his sustenance and strength.

The Song Is My Story is Ibrahim's solo piano chronicle of his life, performed in brief and profound interpretations. Many of the songs are visitations from his vast catalog, others are impromptu improvisations literally rolling of his fingertips, for he lives in the moment, is present in the now. For him "improvisation is meditation in motion."

Ibrahim is best recognized for his lengthy productions with extended song structures conjuring images of Africa, with its beauty and its brutality, yet this record is a dramatic departure given its brevity and simplicity. Not that the music is simple, but the sparseness, and the quiet passages mirror his transition into a tranquil performer revealing a gentle personality. Recorded at the esteemed Fazioli concert hall in Sacile, Italy, Ibrahim performs on their superbly crafted grand piano, the perfect setting and instrument for an artist of his caliber.

The accompanying DVD offers his personal narration into his background, influences, and inspirations, from the historical melting pot which is Capetown, to the violent uprisings in Soweto during the mid-1970's which coincided with his rise in stature as an ardent supporter of the anti-apartheid movement. His music is intrinsically connected with the human rights issues of his home, and his peaceful nature radiates a firm belief in freedom and equal rights for all Africans. In the video he demonstrates how his signature piano styling came about by combining local African folk music with jazz progressions and chord structures. A short segment of the concert is also included and is the visual accompaniment to the record, produced with impeccable camerawork and excellent audio.

The Song Is My Story celebrates Abdullah Ibrahim's eightieth birthday, and also coincides with the fortieth anniversary of his 1974 release "Mannenberg," which became the underground anthem of the townships and the rallying cry of the oppressed native inhabitants. Ibrahim is a prestigious artist who not only offers an appreciative audience highly intellectual music, but raises awareness on moral issues as well. His music has made a difference, and in his own words: "some do it because they have to do it...we do it because we want to...so we do not require much sleep...so we have to do it."

Track Listing: Celestial Bird Dance; Threshold; Open Door – Within; Unfettered – Muken; Spiral Mist; Just Arrived; Kalahari Pleiades; For Coltrane; Twelve By Twelve; Shadows Lean Against My Song; The Song Is My Story – URA; Marinska; African Dawn; Eclipse At Dawn; Phambili – Looking Ahead; For Coltrane; Children Dance.

Personnel: Abdullah Ibrahim: Fazioli grand piano; saxophone (1, 7).

Title: The Song Is My Story | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records

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