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Monday, April 16, 2018

Abdullah Ibrahim: An Illustrated Epistle for a Jazz Apostle

This week, we celebrate the Jazz Epistles—South Africa’s near-mythic bebop band—with two electrifying evenings of music co-presented by the World Music Institute. Each night, superstar pianist Abdullah Ibrahim will be joined on stage by his band, Ekaya, and special guests to play in honor of the revolutionary group he helped form, and in memory of the late great trumpeter Hugh Masekela, who recently passed away. 

The Jazz Epistles were South Africa’s first black jazz band, pioneering a new musical form influenced by bebop and traditional South African music. Inspired by Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, the troupe formed when the Dollar Brand Trio from Cape Town––including pianist Abdullah Ibrahim (“Dollar Brand”), bassist Johnny Gertze, and drummer Makaya Ntshoko––combined talents with alto saxophonist Kippie Moeketsi, the late Masekela, and trombonist Jonas Gwangwa. Their first and only album, 1959's Jazz Epistle, Verse 1 brought them international acclaim. However, following the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre and the increasing oppression of the apartheid government (which included the prohibition of jazz music), the band was forced to disband as its members emigrated to Europe and North America. Two of them, Ibrahim and Masekela, would go on to become jazz stars in their own right.

In this series of illustrations, artist Nathan Gelgud pays homage to the Jazz Epistles pioneering bebop spirit.

The Jazz Epistles comes to the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House this Wed, Apr 18, and great tickets are still available for that evening's performance.

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