Abdullah Ibrahim to perform at benefit concerts for Thabo Mbeki's library

Jazz legend Abdullah Ibrahim and his band Ekaya will play two benefit concerts for the Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library this week.

26 November 2019 - 06:30 By CLAIRE KEETON
Abdullah Ibrahim will perform in Cape Town and Joburg this week.
Abdullah Ibrahim will perform in Cape Town and Joburg this week.
Image: Moeletsi Mabe

Internationally acclaimed musician Abdullah Ibrahim and his band Ekaya will play two concerts in SA this week in support of Thabo Mbeki’s vision of a magnificent library where the materials of African liberation leaders, including his own, will be collected.

The presidential library — to be founded in partnership with Unisa and located in Killarney, Johannesburg — is not a vanity project but an important project where Africa’s great minds can come together to share their ideas and culture, said the jazz maestro on Monday.

Ibrahim said that the library and museum could “redefine and re-establish our history and cosmology … and restore this to our communities”.

“This is urgent, especially for the younger generation. There is no way it can be passed on to them as it was done for us by our predecessors.”

The Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library has already received papers, diaries and other writings by former Ghanaian leader Kwame Nkrumah, said its CEO Max Boqwana.

Mbeki, a fan of Ibrahim’s music, invited him long ago to perform the benefit concert for the Thabo Mbeki Foundation, said Ibrahim.

Abdullah Ibrahim and his band Ekaya will perform in support of former president Thabo Mbeki's vision of an African library.
Abdullah Ibrahim and his band Ekaya will perform in support of former president Thabo Mbeki's vision of an African library.
Image: Thabo Mbeki Foundation

“We will focus on new material in the concerts. We will play excerpts from The Balance ... that define the essence of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation project — restoring balance in the mindset of our lives, our communities,” he said.

The Balance, Ibrahim’s first new album with Ekaya in years, was released in June. He will be performing compositions from it such as Dreamtime.

Ibrahim said of Ekaya: “These musicians are highly skilled and could all go and play in a philharmonic orchestra, but classical music can’t compare to our dimension. I cannot play Bach; that’s not how I breathe.” 

The Cape Town-born pianist, whose albums have won countless accolades around the world, said his music “gives total freedom to follow your own heartbeat and own rhythm”.

He added that he is in discussion with the Western Cape government about bringing his archives to Cape Town.

Recalling times in Botswana and Zambia, where he and Mbeki once met in exile, Ibrahim said: “We have known each other a long time - 100 years.”

The Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library aspires to be a centre of excellence for African knowledge and scholarship, a place “where Africans get to know and write their own history”.


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