Press Release: 2020 Spring Conferment of Decoration from Japan

On 29th April 2020 (Japan Time), the Government of Japan announced the foreign recipients of the 2020 Spring Imperial Decoration. Abdullah Ibrahim is among the recipients of the decoration by His Majesty the Emperor of Japan.

The world famous master of Jazz piano, the most successful and respected musician in South Africa and a great son of Cape Town, Abdullah Ibrahim will receive the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays in recognition of his lifetime achievement in emancipating the people of South Africa and the world through his piano, as well as his contribution to Japan-South African friendship through his works, performances and profound understanding of Japanese culture and spirituality.

Abdullah Ibrahim, who also previously received South Africa’s highest National Order of Ikhamanga in 2009 as well as numerous international awards, started his career at the age of 15 for over 70 years. Throughout his music career in the USA, Europe as well as in South Africa, Abdullah Ibrahim fought strongly against racism and injustices. His composition, “Mannenberg” was regarded as an informal national anthem of the people of South Africa in the difficult days.

Abdullah Ibrahim has a deep understanding of Japanese culture and spirituality through his long engagement with Budo. Abdullah Ibrahim has been conferred full mastership from the grandmaster Yukio Tonegawa of the Bujutsu Kodosoku-Kai Yakami-ryu. Abdullah Ibrahim who used to have his own dojo in Cape Town is the first non-Japanese master of Yakami-Ryu. Abdullah Ibrahim has performed in many concerts in Japan including the ones at the world heritage site, Kamigamo Shrine in Kyoto (2003, 2006, 2010, 2015 and 2019). Furthermore, in Cape Town, Abdullah Ibrahim performed in celebrating the centenary of the Japanese Consulate in Cape Town, the oldest Japanese mission in Africa, on the Heritage Day of 24th September 2018, which was reported widely by NHK(Japan Broad Casting Cooperation) also to people of Japan.

His beliefs on unity in human mind, body and nature culminate into the concept of “Satoyama” that signifies a sustainable coexistence of human beings with the nature. It also relates to the sentiment of awe and respect toward nature in African tradition. The deep insights by the Africa’s wiseman resonate many people in Japan and have contributed to mutual understanding between people of Japan and South Africa over the years. The most recent performance of Abdullah Ibrahim was in September 2019, during the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Dates and arrangement of the conferment ceremony will be decided in due course.