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How improvisation saved my life

3 minutes

How life under apartheid taught a jazz master to be nimble on the street and on stage

‘Dr Ibrahim, how does one improvise?’

Born in Cape Town in 1934, the South African jazz legend Abdullah Ibrahim came of age during the apartheid era, when a black man’s ability to improvise during tense run-ins with gangs and white authority figures could mean the difference between life and death. In this short animation for NPR’s Jazz Night in America, Ibrahim explores how close calls in his youth helped him to become a master improviser on stage, while touching on how the freedom inherent to jazz threatened South Africa’s racist power structure.

Producers: Alex Ariff, Colin Marshall, Simon Rentner

Animators: Tessa Chong, Lee Arkapaw

Support Aeon

Ideas can change the world

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview.

But we can’t do it without you.

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview. Our mission is to create a sanctuary online for serious thinking.

No ads, no paywall, no clickbait – just thought-provoking ideas from the world’s leading thinkers, free to all. But we can’t do it without you.

Become a Friend for $5 a month or Make a one-off donation

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