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The Balance


Artist: Abdullah Ibrahim
Label: Greabox Records
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 28 June 2019

Abdullah Ibrahim (who has also recorded as Dollar Brand) is one of South Africa's most famous musicians. Born under the apartheid regime, where jazz music was seen as an act of resistance, his music is often referred to as representing freedom. His major anti-apartheid anthem 'Mannenberg' (released as 'Capetown Fringe' in the US) has come to be regarded as an unofficial national anthem in South Africa, and he even performed at Nelson Mandela's inauguration, where Mandela referred to him as "our Mozart”.

Ibrahim has played with everyone from Duke Ellington to Max Roach, John Coltrane to Ornette Coleman, and is the father of underground rapper Jean Grae. Now, at the age of 84, Ibrahim releases his first new album in four years.

The Balance features Ibrahim's band Ekaya, and was recorded over the course of a day in London at RAK Studios last November (2018).

Talking about the album, Ibrahim said: "We push ourselves out of our comfort zones. So that we can present to the listener our striving for excellence. So that we can engage with our listeners without any barriers of our ego. It’s not jazz. For us, it’s a process of transcending barriers. Technically it’s very, very skilled, but there’s simplicity in the complexity so that people can relate to it. It’s a natural rhythm of the universe. We’ve been looking at recording for some time. But we were looking for the correct vehicle. Someone who understands what we’re doing."

For an artist who is in his mid-eighties, The Balance doesn't show any signs of him slowing down. You may expect an artist with such a long and notable history to maybe sit back on their laurels a little, or at least take things easy. Ibrahim continues to strive for a new and engaging sound and he's managed it perfectly here.

This is a jazz album for aficionados as well as those who usually shy away from the genre.


Nick Smithson

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