Mannenberg Memorial

Landmarks / Memorials in or near Cape Town Central, City Bowl in Cape Town, South Africa.

Western Cape Tourist AttractionsMannenberg Memorial

Where? 21 Bloem Street, Cape Town Central, City Bowl, Cape Town

Overnight? Stay in Cape Town Central, in Western Cape

One of the art works of the Sunday Times Heritage Project is a commemoration of the place where the famous song, Mannenberg, was recorded.

The work is by Mark O'Donovan, an electrical engineer, and Francois Venter, the performance artist. The two collaborated to produce a seven pipe art piece that when 'played' in sequence by the visitor's car keys (a stick will also do the trick), will sound the opening bars of Mannenberg.

Mannenberg, a South African marabi-influenced Cape jazz classic, has quite a history.

Abdullah Ibrahim (piano) was recording with Robbie Jansen (alto sax), Basil Coetzee (tenor sax and flute), Monty Weber (drums), Morris Goldberg (alto sax), Paul Michaels (bass) and producer Rashid Vally when, in a moment of inspiration, the song Mannenberg emerged, as if by magic.

The song was to have a huge impact, when it emerged as part of the album Mannenberg is where it's happening (1974).

Not only did it bring jazz back to Africa in the form of locally influenced and authentically South African jazz sounds, but it became an anthem of the struggle against apartheid, played at many political rallies during the 80s.

In 1974 and 1975 the record outsold any other jazz album in South Africa, even though no record company in the country wanted to take on the album. Instead, Rashid Vally and Abdul Ibrahim self-promoted the initial release. After selling over 5 000 copies in one week alone, Gallo Records took it on.

Over the years the song has been claimed by many interest groups, commentated on by experts and has evolved into a song for all South Africans. It has an irresistible melody with recognisable ingredients – the groove, the ticky-draai, the langarm and jazz - that gets the hips swaying.

Mannenberg (often spelled Manenberg) is on the Cape Flats, a suburb to which most of the former District Six's residents were forced to move under the Group Areas Act. By the time the song was released most of them were already in Mannenberg.

But there was resistance all round, both in court cases and on the streets – 'Mannenberg' became the resistance's battle cry.

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