Musical interlude: Abdullah Ibrahim's Mannenberg (Is Where It's Happening)


Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand) is seen here visiting Mandela's cell on Robben Island, and wandering in and around Cape Town -- including the famed District Six and Mannenberg -- to the soundtrack of his now classic South African jazz tune Mannenberg (Is Where It's Happening).

As academic John Edwin Mason explained in 2007: ``Abdullah Ibrahim’s composition Mannenberg was an instant hit, when it was released on the 1974 album, Mannenberg is Where It’s Happening... the song is a product of Ibrahim’s efforts to find an authentically South African mode of expression within the jazz tradition, blending South African musical forms -- marabi, mbaqanga and langarm -- with American jazz... It quickly became an icon of South African jazz, defining the genre both within the country and overseas. At the same time, the South African coloured community invested the song with their own meaning, transforming it into an an icon of their culture and of themselves.

``In the 1980s, Mannenberg had a second life as an anthem of the struggle against apartheid. Some called it South Africa’s `unofficial national anthem'. Once again, the song acquired a new meaning, this time through the efforts of musicians, especially Basil Coetzee and Robbie Jansen, who made it the musical centerpiece of countless anti-apartheid rallies and concerts.''

I'm using 'Mannenberg' in my jazz improvisation workshop with people who play instruments but have still to find their way as improvisers. It sets a beautiful vibe that is both uplifting and reassuring, giving a perfect platform for people to spread their musical and emotional wings.