WBGO Radar

Abdullah Ibrahim: Mukashi

Cover of Abdullah Ibrahim's album Mukashi

It starts with a lone flute and voice. This evocation ushers us in to "Dream Time" on Mukashi, the forthcoming recording from pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, one of South Africa's most celebrated musicians.

"Mukashi" is a Japanese word which means "once upon a time." Ibrahim has recorded in solo, trio and large ensembles. Here he leads a small group with Cleave Guyton, once a member of Ibrahim's group Ekaya, on flute, clarinet and saxophone, and cellists Eugen Bazjian from the Ukraine and Scott Roller from the U.S.

Abdullah works solo through "The Stars Will Remember," which feels like he wants us to hear what he has to offer.

"Serenity" and "Peace" are two Ibrahim creations that invite Guyton's flute to carry us along, especially on the latter, which conveys the ebb and flow of nature.

Guyton's clarinet works nicely on "Mississippi," a lament for the South which hints at its musical heritage.

Once rejected by music companies who felt his music was too primitive, Ibrahim's simplicity is what keeps us on Mukashi, long after most of the record companies have gone away.

The tranquil "Matzikama"(place that gives water) proves an extended introduction to Ibrahim's solo interpretation of Lange and Trapani's "Cara Mia," one of the best-known lover laments.

"Trace Elements For Monk" has the piano and flute in a recognizable sphere stripped to the bare essence of Thelonious.

The next three pieces - "Crystal Clear," "Devotion" and "Endurance" form a short suite entitled "Krotoa" meant to portray a young Khoi girl's dealings with the first European settlers. \\\

"In The Evening" offers a quiet interplay among the leader's piano, the two cellos and clarinet.

You can tell amongst Abdullah Ibrahim's sense memories is a tranquility we all sometimes find out of grasp.

"Essence" is a solo piano piece, followed by closing thoughts on "The Balance,” which features Ibrahim's piano and Guyton's flute.

Abdullah Ibrahim recordings are always a journey. Mukashi is a good listen to start one of your own. It comes out April 29th.

    - Gary Walker, WBGO music director

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