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Talking Music: A Life in Jazz

With Abdullah Ibrahim and Nathaniel Mackey
October 15th, 2015
1:00 PM


UPDATE: The Duke Chronicle's Lucy Zhang wrote about Ibrahim's discussion with Nathaniel Mackey for the October 22 issue of the newspaper.

Thursday, October 15

12:00 p.m. - 1:15 p.m.

Forum for Scholars and Publics, 011 Old Chem

Light lunch served

Duke professor and acclaimed poet Nathaniel Mackey talked with South African jazz legend Abdullah Ibrahim about his wide-ranging career in music. Ibrahim played with his ensemble Ekaya on Friday, October 16 at 8:00 p.m. in Baldwin Auditorium

A part of an on-going series, Talking Music: Conversations with Scholars, Writes, Archivists, and Artists, co-sponsored by Duke Performances, the Forum for Scholars, and the Duke Africa Initiative. 

Watch Adbullah Ibrahim's performances at Carnegie Hall (2014) & the Jarasum Jazz Festival (2013).



Image from Abdullah Ibrahim's personal website.

Abdullah Ibrahim

Since signing his first record deal under the patronage of Duke Ellington in 1964, South African jazz legend Abdullah Ibrahim has made a staggering fifty-two albums as pianist and bandleader and has played a central role in his country’s twentieth-century musical and political landscape. Born into the rich culture of pre-Apartheid Cape Town, the eighty-one year old Ibrahim — who was once known by the name Dollar Brand — absorbed the songs of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the burgeoning marabi tradition in the townships, and, of course, American jazz.

His piano playing casts broad, hymn-like strokes with hints of Ellington’s colorful orchestrations in Ekaya, his seven-piece ensemble. After a 2014 performance at New York’s Schomburg Center, Ben Ratliff of The New York Times said of the music, “It reached the audience as if it were a music never heard before, and did so by degrees: first like a history lesson, then like a party, then like a deep and serious matter.”

Nathaniel Mackey

Poet, novelist, and critic Nathaniel Mackey is Duke University’s Reynolds Price Professor of Creative Writing. He joined Duke’s faculty in 2010, after his work as a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Nathaniel Mackey works in the areas of modern and postmodern literature in the U.S. and the Caribbean, creative writing, poetry and poetics, and the intersection of literature and music. He is the author of several books of poetry, fiction and criticism: Blue Fasa (2015), Bass Cathedral (2008), and Paracritical Hinge: Essays, Talks, Notes, Interviews (2005). Strick: Song of the Andoumboulou 16-25, a compact disc recording of poems read with musical accompaniment was released in 1995. He is editor of the literary magazine Hambone and coeditor, with Art Lange, of the anthology Moment's Notice: Jazz in Poetry and Prose (1993). 

Mackey’s poetry has gathered considerable acclaim, most recently earning him two prestigious awards—the 2014 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation and the 2015 Bollingen Prize for American Poetry, where he joined a list of twentieth-century poetic luminaries including Ezra Pound, Robert Frost, and W.S. Merwin. Learn more about Mackey's teaching and writing in this multimedia story in Duke Today.