Abdullah Ibrahim, formerly known as Dollar Brand, is a pianist and composer. Deeply religious (he converted to Islam in 1968), Ibrahim brought his beliefs and experiences as a black man living in segregated South Africa to bear in his music. In a 1998 interview, Ibrahim said that he and his musicians “effectively become like actors, interpreting the feelings of the voiceless in South Africa. They have been forced into silence. We report their pain and their courage.”
At the Gardner in 1996, Ibrahim worked with students in three nearby Boston Public Schools: fifth graders from the Tobin and Farragut schools, and eighth grade jazz students from Boston Latin School. While experiencing the creative process through dance, music, and language, students worked together to develop their own creativity and self-confidence. Ibrahim also performed three concerts in the Tapestry Room and gave an Eye of the Beholder performance/lecture titled New World Jazz.
Ibrahim is one of four recipients of the 2018 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Fellowships, a lifetime achievement honor. In 1962, the Dollar Brand Trio (with Johnny Gertze on bass and Makaya Ntshoko on drums) toured Europe, where Duke Ellington heard them play and set up a recording session for the group with Reprise Records that resulted in the album Duke Ellington presents the Dollar Brand Trio, the first of many albums Ibrahim produced after leaving South Africa. IIbrahim also wrote the award-winning soundtrack for the 1988 film Chocolat.