The melodic sounds of South Africa are fused with the improvisation of jazz and the technical proficiency of classical music by South Africa-born pianist Dollar Brand or, as he's called himself since converting to Islam in 1968, Abdullah Ibrahim. Since attracting international acclaim as a member of the Jazz Epistles, one of South Africa's first jazz bands, he has continued to explore new ground with his imaginative playing. Exposed to a variety of music as a youngster, including traditional African music, religious songs, and jazz, Brand began studying piano at the age of seven. Becoming a professional musician in 1949, he performed with such South African groups as the Tuxedo Slickers and the Willie Max Big Band. Ten years later, he joined the Jazz Epistles, a group featuring trumpet player Hugh Masekela and alto saxophonist Kippi Moeketsi. The band, which had been formed in 1959 by American pianist John Mehegan for a recording session, Jazz in Africa, had recorded the first jazz album by South African musicians.