b. Ismail Mohamed-jan, 10 December 1949, Bemoni, South Africa. Mohamed founded and played guitar with his first band, the Valients, in the mid-60s. Their repertoire was made up of soul, Latin and local kwela music. Following the break-up of the Valients, he formed Children’s Society, predominantly a covers band who, nevertheless, had a big local hit with the self-penned ‘I’m A Married Man’. In the 70s Mohamed teamed up with Basil Coetzee and Sipho Gumede, bass player with Sakhile, and made four albums that became huge hits in the townships of South Africa. The 80s saw him working behind the scenes as a producer and recording engineer while also mastering the mbira (a South African thumb piano). In the early 90s he released two solo jazz albums for the local market only, Kalamazoo in 1991 and Sophiatown a year later. Both sold well and received lavish critical praise.
Having produced and played on the Outernational Meltdown recording sessions in 1994, he released Ancestral Healing, his international debut, a year later. Subtitled ‘From New York To Jo’burg’, it was recorded in New York and featured local musicians, such as Valerie Naranjo (vibraphonist, percussionist, ex-Caribali), along with South African players and Mohamed himself playing piano, penny whistle, mbira and a whole range of percussion instruments. The album successfully melded traditional styles with the South African jazz sound made internationally popular by artists such as Abdullah Ibrahim and the African Jazz Pioneers.At the time of the release of Ancestral Healing, Mohamed was in the Kalahari Desert recording the chants and music of the Khoisian bushmen. Tapes of these recordings were used as the basis for a recording session featuring Mohamed and a group of young British jazz musicians including Chris Bowden and Roland Sutherland. The result, released as How Far Have We Come, featured funky South African-style jazz, with the tribal elements integrated more effectively on some tracks than on others.