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TOKYO

African pianist to jazz up Tokyo, Kyoto

by Henry Wong

Combining smooth jazz with elements of African style, Abdullah Ibrahim has drawn comparisons with musicians such as Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk. The South African pianist will give jazz fans in Tokyo and Kyoto a taste of this combination when he returns to Japan on tour this week.

Ibrahim’s name may not be familiar to fans of his early work. The pianist was born Adolph Johannes Brand in Cape Town, South Africa. He changed his name after converting to Islam.

Ibrahim was surrounded and inspired by music all his life. He began taking piano lessons at the age of 7, and at the age of 15, he began a professional career.

Ibrahim has played at countless clubs with a variety of different artists and bands, but the most notable of these was The Dollar Brand Trio with Johnny Gertze on bass and Makaya Ntshoko on drums. During this time as a band, the trio were discovered by the legendary Duke Ellington while on tour in Europe, which helped them land a record deal. This brought newfound popularity to the band and began Ibrahim’s global travels. The international exposure also led to the opportunity for Ibrahim to compose the soundtrack for the award-winning film “Chocolat,” which resulted in him winning a best male artist nod at the South African Music Awards.

Abdullah Ibrahim African Piano takes place at Suntory Hall’s Blue Rose Hall in Tokyo on Sept. 29 and at Kamigamo Shrine in Kyoto on Oct. 2 and 3. For more information, visit www.suntory.co.jp/suntoryhall or www.abdullahibrahim.com