World icon to jazz up Bay stage

ONE of the most illustrious musicians, pianists and composers ever produced on South African shores, Abdullah Ibrahim, will be gracing the PE Opera House stage next week.

Formerly known as Dollar Brand to those lucky enough to be familiar with the brilliance of his music, the jazz legend – who has been described as one of the most gifted jazz musicians in history – will be performing in the Bay on October 18 and 19, accompanied by his Ekaya band and the Jazz Orchestra Big Band.

The musicians will combine their talents for two unforgettable concerts, with a repertoire of best-loved compositions from Ibrahim's critically acclaimed African River, Bombella, and Ekaya's Sotho Blue albums.

Ibrahim says he is looking forward to returning to PE.

"The Eastern Cape has always been a major powerhouse for jazz and heritage, producing a prolific stream of great musicians throughout the decades," he said.

"As a composer-pianist, one always hears the music in greater context, trio, septet, symphonic and of course big band, which is one of the most creative formats in jazz.

"Ellington, Gasie, Fletcher Henderson, Chick Webb (US), and in South Africa, Peter Rezant's Merry Blackbirds, Shanty Town Sextet and Merry Macs in Langa, all influenced my writing for big band."

Born in Cape Town in 1934, the gifted jazz icon started out his career as Dollar Brand in 1949. He started mastering his talent on the vibrant jazz street's of the Mother City in the late 40s and 50s.

Remaining in South Africa until the beginning of the 60s, he performed with Miriam Makeba and founded the first noteworthy jazz band in Africa with the Jazz Epistles.

In 1962 Ibrahim moved to Europe, performing for two years at Cafe Africa in Zurich.

He was later discovered by Duke Ellington, in 1965, who would become a mentor to the young South African musician.

From there on his path became history, his music resonating, inspiring and enthralling millions.

Even in his late 70s, Ibrahim still possesses the unique talent of telling stories with his music.

Ibrahim, who has previously performed in the Bay, said he was humbled to be performing a new composition titled Mendi Road – New Brighton.

"... [It] is a tribute to the vibrant township of New Brighton in Port Elizabeth, where I stayed after my 1959 Music Indigenous Tour when I played with Themba Dambuze Mdledle, the leader of jazz group Manhattan Brothers."

Ibrahim and the Jazz Orchestra Big Band will also conduct a free three-hour workshop for aspiring musicians on October 17 at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.

  • Tickets for the concerts are available at R150 from Computicket at
  • Bookings for the master class are on a first-come, first- serve basis. To book contact Lynne Pillay on (021)674-9944 or