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

Get Aeon straight
to your inbox
Join our newsletter Sign up
Follow us on
Facebook
Like

‘Aeon, for me, continues to be one of the best places to spend a quiet afternoon, in the company of some of the most brilliant minds around.’

Shivam C, India, Friend of Aeon

‘Aeon’s combination of intelligence, integrity and flair is vanishingly rare – and I am very grateful for it. It is becoming an indispensable presence in the digital world for those who believe that ideas matter.’

Tom Chatfield, writer and commentator on digital culture

‘I believe it’s increasingly important to support accessible scholarship and aspirational ideas.

Thinking people can no longer afford to be alone.’

Christine T, USA, Friend of Aeon

‘Aeon is my favourite online magazine.

I have found no other place that so regularly provides interesting, clear and informative articles across academic disciplines on topics that matter.’

Dr Robert J. Hartman, University of Gothenburg

‘Aeon is what readers and writers dream about. It is wide in scope, without ever being shallow. It offers stimulating issues, yet never seeking to be tantalising.

Publishing at its best. I love it.’

Professor Luciano Floridi, University of Oxford

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge. Our mission is to create a sanctuary online for serious thinking.
But we can’t do it without you.

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview.
But we can’t do it without you.

Essay/
Stories & Literature
Communist robot dreams

Tech flourished in communist Bulgaria and so did a body of science fiction asking vital philosophical questions

Victor Petrov

Essay/
Subcultures
The spirit molecule

The theory that the brain produces its own psychedelic compound provokes pop-culture enthusiasm and scientific controversy

Graham St John