Now 81, the tall, dignified Cape Town-born jazz musician, famed for international hits like Mannenberg (1974), will play solo a programme of music that combines South African township and traditional African music, gospel, and enigmatic jazz.
Born in Cape Town as Adolph Johannes Brand, his mother was Coloured, his father Sotho. She was a church pianist and from the age of seven young Adolph had piano lessons.
Refused entry to the music conservatory because of his race, he started performing professionally at 15 as a vocalist and later pianist with swing bands in District Six and beyond.
He picked up his nickname ‘Dollar’ after buying 78 records from Black GIs who visited Cape Town during the Second World War.
He left South Africa with his wife singer Betty Benjamin in 1962, the year his friend Mandela was imprisoned, and settled in New York. In 1968 he converted to Islam which added Arab elements to his music.
Since the end of apartheid he has lived in Cape Town and New York, singing, playing piano as well as the flute, saxophone and cello, and composing.
During his extraordinary career he has made dozens of albums and his familiar contemplative and absorbing sound is known worldwide.
Abdullah Ibrahim’s concert at the Barbican is on February Saturday 27th at 8pm.
Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS
Tel. 0207 638 8891