Thursday, December 8, 2011

Exile Music: Dollar Brand (Abdullah Ibrahim) restored

Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand)

Tonight I share one of those records that just must be in every music lover’s collection: African Marketplace by Dollar Brand as he was known before he changed his name to Abdullah Ibrahim.

Brian Ahlberg, an old Minnesota leftie, who last time I checked was Senator Tom Larkin’s right hand advisor, a gig he took after the untimely death of America’s most left leaning recent politician, Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, introduced me to this record many moons ago. 

At the time Brian and I shared an old rambling house in South Minneapolis with two musician siblings, a video artist and a neurotic cat. Like most student houses we rarely saw each other but quite regularly Brian and I would take turns spinning records for each other late into the night.  He spun many more worthy ones than I as he had a massive collection from his days of labouring behind the counter of one of Minneapolis’s hip record shops.

Instantly he played this I fell in love.  Mainly because it was music of a hot climate and I was encaged in the frozen north lands of a wintry America.  The loose, almost out of control music with blasting trombones, trumpets and sax and persistent drumming was about the closest thing I had heard to an Indian wedding band. I could see the chaos of the marketplace and the musicians pushing their way through the crowds. There seemed to be no order to the music except that there were these sweet songlines that kept reappearing when things seemed about to break at the seams. 

This was jazz that wasn’t pretentious but rather earthy and joyful.  Brian (never one to miss an opportunity to enlighten a political dullard) explained that this fabulous musician was one of South Africa’s greatest musicians who had been introduced to the west by none other than Duke Ellington who saw the young apartheid refugee perform in a Geneva club.

Apartheid was still ‘the system’ in South Africa in the mid-80’s. Like Makeba and Masakela, Ibrahim was an exile from his beloved country. And there didn’t appear to be much chance of an early return in those days. Mandela was still years away from being released.  I could feel Ibrahim’s deep love and longing for his country in the music and that feeling is what made this album immediately stand out from the crowd. I shared a similar longing for the land of my birth and it never fails to bring alive the memories of childhood.

            Track Listing:
            01 Whoza Mtwana
02 The Homecoming Song
03 The Wedding
04 Moniebah
05 African Marketplace
06 Mamma
07 Anthem for the New Nation
08 Ubu-Suku
Listen here.


Marian said...

Cut 1- Sounds like a Van Morrison lead in, Cut 2, there's the inspiration for Graceland! Wonderful, accessible music.

ajnabi said...

Hi Marian,
Yes, you're right! On all three counts!

Slidewell said...

I too, was smitten upon first hearing African Marketplace on the radio many, many years ago. I was in my car, and I immediately drove to the record store to see if I could purchase the LP. Nobody had it in stock (of course) but I ordered it, and it has been one of my favorite albums ever since. Selections from this and "Water From An Ancient Well" played at my wedding. I had the priveledge of seeing Ibrahim and his band on three occasions. My favorite show was at a hotel somewhere in Newark, NJ. There was a smallish ballromm with a bandshell stage that had little lights set in the wall behind the band. The setting evoked a bygone time, sort of the big band era. All the audience was black (except whiteboy me and my girlfriend) and dressed to the nines. Abdullah and his channeled the spirit of Duke Ellington with a set of upbeat, swinging tunes full of joy. What a night!

ajnabi said...

Sounds like a great show! I've not seen him down here for a while. Missed him a couple years ago as I was overseas. Glad to find a kindred spirit!

Schmalx said...

I am very grateful to you for posting this wonderful album, which I discovered, when it first came out as a student. Now my extensive collection of Vinyl is stored in a faraway land in a cellar, waiting to be rediscovered one day.
Thank you for giving me the chance to ge hooked up to this joyful grooves again!

ajnabi said...

Schmalx. Glad you can be reconnected! Enjoy and don't destroy your vinyl.

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