Sathima and Ibrahim made the famous Chelsea Hotel their home as soon as they got to New York. Being surrounded by musical revolutionaries like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Leonard Cohen, New York started feeling like the once vibrant township of District Six in Cape Town. They could finally rest a little and just concentrate on their music.
The pair could have easily copied the artists of the day to blend in musically with what was going on but they instead chose to stick to what they knew. They used their music to let the world know of the injustice that was happening in South Africa. Ibrahim, who at times would
not compromise artistically, collaborated with jazz greats like Archie Shepp, Max Roach and Buddy Tate. Through these collaborations, these men channeled their frustration into their music and gave birth to sounds that blended America with Africa.
In the early 70s, Abdullah Ibrahim surprised the jazz world with a number of his compositions, blending simple-sounding African tunes and hymn-arrangements with jazzy grooves or free forms. The great number and often infectious intensity of his solo-concerts paved the way for the success of Keith Jarrett and others. In 1971, Sathima and Abdullah Ibrahim went to Swaziland and then in 1973, they returned to South Africa, though Abdullah Ibrahim still went on world tours and made recordings. Between 1974 and 1976, he made his last recordings for a while with South African musicians in his homeland. The discs included Mannenberg (U.S title: Cape Town Fringe, which became a hymn of the anti-apartheid movement.
Ibrahim developed his music further with musicians like Carlos Ward and Johnny Dyani. During this exile, he became the voice of the oppressed in his homeland and publicly supported the demands of the ANC, the African National Congress. In 1979, with the cream of the New York jazz scene, he issued the album African Marketplace, whose fusion of stylistic elements was a milestone in recent jazz history. In 1983 he founded his Septet Ekaya (Homeland) which became the nucleus of greater projects. In 1988, he composed the notable soundtrack for the film Chocolate, followed by No Fear, No Die. Duke Ellington and Sathima Bea
Sathima on the other hand took a back seat when it came to music and took on the full-time role of being mother to Tshidi and Tswake. Tshidi grew up to become a successful musician and she is known as Jean Grae in underground hip-hop scene in New York City. After Tshidi and Tswake finished college, Sathima decided to give music another shot. She started recording and releasing her albums through her own label called eKapa. One of her albums, Dedications, was nominated for a Grammy award in 1982.
Political changes let him in 1990 to move back to Cape Town, where he has since been living, though keeping his home in New York too. In 1991, he founded the Ekaya music and Heritage Centre in Cape Town and in 1998, the M7 Centre, to make his social commitment tangible. In 1994, he played at Nelson Mandela’s inauguration and was awarded an honorary doctorate at the University of the Western Cape.
In 1998, some of his compositions, called African Suite, were arranged by the Swiss composer Daniel Schnyder for jazz trio and a 22-member string orchestra and performed in Munich. These compositions were issued the same year on cd and were received enthusiastically in both jazz and classical circles.
A big symphonic version with North German Radio is due to appear as a double cd. After half a century as a professional musician, Abdullah Ibrahim still extends his notable range. After the fall of apartheid, Abdullah decided to go back to South Africa. Abdullah shares his time between Cape Town and New York City and he is still making music on both ends.