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Abdullah Ibrahim: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

It's less a concert and more witnessing a master thoughtfully creating an atmosphere, a vibe. And for 13 short minutes, I feel seated in Abdullah Ibrahim's home in Chiemgau, Germany, witnessing seven decades of experience slowly dripping from his fingers and touching my soul.

Abdullah Ibrahim, now 87, has witnessed the horrors of apartheid. He grew up in South Africa and composed what would become known as the "anti-apartheid anthem," "Mannenberg." Nelson Mandela called him "our Mozart." He also successfully made music under the name Dollar Brand, and worked with jazz legends including Duke Ellington, Max Roach, Don Cherry and Archie Shepp. In 1968, he converted to Islam and changed his name from Dollar Brand; more recently, he became an NEA Jazz Master. In my 18 years directing All Things Considered, I'd often reach for his music to play between news stories to give the audience a chance to think and reflect. His music is like that; it's mind-opening.

And here he is seated at his piano, his white hair luminous, his fingers delicate, while he reflects on the past and helps clarify the present. The music is from his newest album Solotude, a recording made to an empty concert hall in southeast Germany during the 2020 lockdown, which for me became a source of calm when it was released toward the end of 2021. To witness this Tiny Desk (home) concert, I suggest you take these next 13 minutes, turn off your distractions and discover the strength in delicate reflection from a gentle man who has so much to share.


  • "Blue Bolero"
  • "Signal On The Hill"
  • "Once Upon A Midnight"

  • Abdullah Ibrahim: piano

  • Director / Director of Photography: Tobias Corts
  • Sound Engineer / Edit / Grading: Florian Epple

  • Producer: Bob Boilen
  • Video Producer: Joshua Bryant
  • Audio Mastering: Josh Rogosin
  • Tiny Production Team: Bobby Carter, Kara Frame, Maia Stern, Ashley Pointer
  • Executive Producer: Keith Jenkins
  • Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann
  • Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    In 1988, a determined Bob Boilen started showing up on NPR's doorstep every day, looking for a way to contribute his skills in music and broadcasting to the network. His persistence paid off, and within a few weeks he was hired, on a temporary basis, to work for All Things Considered. Less than a year later, Boilen was directing the show and continued to do so for the next 18 years.

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