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The Full Spectrum

by Ts'eliso Monaheng,images by Urban Mosadi / 01.03.2011

On the back of her great self-released debut, Zaki Ibrahim is touring with Tumi and the Volume and Canadian (by way of Mogadishu, Somalia) troubadour K’naan. Dubbed “The African Way tour”, it has been amassing crowds all over.

Miss Ibrahim digs colours. Literally. Her excellent 2008 release was called Eclectica: Episodes in Purple which followed her debut EP two years earlier Sho: Iqra in Orange. If she’s working through the entire spectrum, it’s good news for music lovers. The Canadian Juno award nominee, who has performed alongside luminaries like Erykah Badu, Zaki will be at the upcoming Cape Town International Jazz festival.

Now based in South Africa she has, in the past year, been to Canada to perform with DJs Fresh and Nick Holder, rocked the Patricia Show in Kenya, and done club dates in London. In between, she found time to shoot the video for “Money”, a towering epic of tribal house, produced by Philadelphia-based King Britt. “I had sent him some bits – sketches of vocals and melodies – and he brought back this amazing song!”

Zaki Ibrahim

Much like the nomad she is, Zaki’s sound boasts an impressive selection of producers from distant reaches; Kenya, London, and California. “The album goes from one spectrum to the other, and I’ve been working on it for a year and a half now.” Her music swims through emotions, defying genre boxing.

Her performance at club Voom Voom in Cape Town recently (on the same bill as Fifth Floor) showed what an elemental thrill ride she’s become, harmonies radiating energy, with a deep flow that registers like a series of seismic events. She intones from her solar plexus then hits tremendously high notes while effortlessly interacting with the crowd. You sense she makes music for the only reason anyone should: to share and enjoy herself.

Zaki Ibrahim

Zaki’s wide range of songs reflect both openness and curiosity. As jazz legend Sun Ra once roared “there are other worlds they have not told you of!” Well, Zaki is busy exploring those worlds and bringing us back souvenirs. Standouts like “Computer Girl”, “Daylight” and “My Joy” can go up against anything out there – inventive, arresting music with an otherworldly twist. On stage she’s so damn charming. It feels at times like she’s fallen to earth to be amongst us like some kind of unearned gift. Why else would she bother with us?

Reflective in tone, bursting with harmony, her music is as agreeably intricate as Ibrahim is articulate in person. Light personified. Born to a Canadian mother and South African father, hers is more than a tale of two cities. Rather, it is a story that demands to be told, a story that bears so much weight that it takes time to unpack, much like her multi-layered song structures. ‘I’m trying to ultimately be a leaver; I want to leave something behind’.

Zaki Ibrahim

*Check out more Zaki Ibrahim tunes here.

**Images © Urban Mosadi.

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