JazzTimes 10: Essential Dollar Brand/Abdullah Ibrahim Recordings

Ten pieces, in chronological order, that document the NEA Jazz Master's musical journey

Cape Town Fringe; Chiaroscuro, 1977 4. Dollar Brand: “Mannenberg” (a.k.a. “Cape Town Fringe”) (Cape Town Fringe; Chiaroscuro, 1977 [originally recorded June 1974])

For better or for worse, “Mannenberg” is the piece for which Abdullah Ibrahim will be remembered. Often described as “bittersweet,” this anthem of apartheid resistance is far more sweet than bitter; it’s a song of hope, not anguish. Its beautiful, instantly memorable hook and rolling gospel-spiked groove would probably have been enough to elevate “Mannenberg” (released in the United States as “Cape Town Fringe” and frequently still known as such here—although Brand named it for a Cape Town township that was a hotbed of resistance) to anthemic status. Brand’s limber but tinny piano amplifies that feeling. But the tune is also a feature for tenor saxophonist Basil Coetzee, whose long solo bursts with such life and warmth and humanity that he was nicknamed “Mannenberg” for the rest of his life. Not surprisingly, Ibrahim would continue performing and recording his most famous composition; it even made a resplendent appearance during the inauguration festivities of president Nelson Mandela.

Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.