The power to uplift

These extracts, including one from Gwen Ansell's seminal Soweto Blues: Jazz, Popular Music and Politics in South Africa, highlight the role that Cape Town jazz musicians Abdullah Ibrahim, Basil Coetzee and Robbie Jansen played in boosting morale during a dark time.

"In 1983, the United Democratic Front (UDF) was established, a broad alliance of grassroots anti-apartheid organisations, structured at national, regional, and local levels... The UDF explicitly called not just for struggle, but for a 'culture of resistance', and from its foundation used graphics and music as key aspects of its activities." [A number of musicians were invited to perform at rallies and gatherings organised by the UDF, and Mannenberg was one of the songs often played at those gatherings.]

- Ansell, G, Soweto Blues: Jazz, Popular Music and Politics in South Africa, New York, Continuum International Publishing Group, 2004, p189


"During the apartheid years of defiance politics, Mannenberg became an anthem of the struggle... During the struggle years, Coetzee was at the forefront of support for the anti-apartheid organisations, always prepared to provide music for rallies."

- "Jazz legend Basil 'Mannenberg' dies", Pretoria News, March 13, 1998


"The history of his [Basil Coetzee's] nickname is a story that will continue to live long after his death and he earned it after his remarkable saxophone solo on Abdullah Ibrahim's recording of Mannenberg, on the album of the same name. During the apartheid years of defiance politics this song became an anthem of the struggle... One of Coetzee's sons, Basil, said one of his father's greatest disappointments was his abandonment by the very people he worked to help in the Eighties, when he and many other musicians helped to raise funds for the fledgling United Democratic Front."

- "Farewell to a musical legend", Sunday Tribune, March 15, 1998


"In 1974 he [Basil Coetzee] joined up with his musical guru, fellow jazz great Dollar Brand (as Abdullah Ibrahim was then known) and collaborated as one of the saxophonists on the album Mannenberg - Where it's happening. The hauntingly beautiful instrumental song lasts 11 minutes and is widely regarded as the "anthem of the revolution". It is from this venture that Coetzee got the name Mannenberg.]

- "Coetzee, anthem of the revolution", Cape Times, March 13, 1998


"[Basil] Coetzee returned to the stage in the mid-1980s, playing at United Democratic Front concerts and rallies; he was at the forefront of support for anti-apartheid organisations."

- "Jazz legend Coetzee played brave final gig", Sunday Independent, March 22, 1998


"It seems like just yesterday that I first heard that riff... that special sound that helped build that wider family during a time of deep repression, when speech was not enough. That sound which is something we can feel but not explain, which gave voice to the speechlessness of those times."

- Minister of Finance Trevor Manuel (then a leading figure in the UDF), speaking at the funeral of Coetzee. From: A Struggle Biography (>17)


"Abdullah [Ibrahim] tells a remarkable story about two tunes that he performed in Cape Town in 1976. These became the anthems of children in the streets of the city. They were the tunes Mannenberg (named after a township in Cape Town that is parallel in significance to Soweto in Johannesburg) and Soweto. The saxophone solos were being sung to words all over the country, as anthems of anger and resistance to the apartheid regime. Just a few months after the recordings of these tunes were released, the Soweto uprising occurred. This was the turning point in South African history, when the South African security forces gunned down schoolchildren, who were protesting against [Afrikaans] language instruction in schools."

- Muller, Carol Ann, "Capturing the 'Spirit of Africa' in the Jazz Singing of South Africa-born Sathima Bea Benjamin", in Research in African Literatures, Vol. 32, Number 2, Summer 2001, p142


back to the Mannenberg memorial page

"Mannenberg catapulted musicians' minds into what was really happening."
Abdullah Ibrahim
Abdullah Ibrahim
Picture: © Sunday Times


Interviews as historical sources

In this lesson plan, students are asked to think about how music enables people to express ideas and to affirm the cultural diversity of South Africa. They will be asked to reflect on the value of interviews as sources.

Lesson plan
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Archive Photo Gallery
Images of the men who created Mannenberg.
Artwork Photo Gallery
Check out the “sound” memorial marking the recording of Abdullah Ibrahim’s famous anthem, Mannenberg.
Audio Archive
Listen to Abdullah Ibrahim and others reminisce about what gave rise to their famous tune.
A 360º view of the memorial on Bloem Street, Cape Town.
Basil “Mannenberg” Coetzee 1
Part 1: Basil “Mannenberg” Coetzee explains why they named the song after a Cape Town township, and how it became an anthem of the struggle against apartheid
Basil “Mannenberg” Coetzee 2
Part 2 of a 1998 SABC3 documentary on Basil “Manenberg” Coetzee
Curious to see and hear the Mannenberg memorial?
SABC2’s Curious Culture magazine programme goes to Cape Town to report on the Mannenberg memorial
Launching the Mannenberg Memorial
SABC2’s Weekend Live programme reports on the launch of the memorial to Mannenberg