It was a very Abdullah weekend for me. Abdullah Ibrahim, that is, the now legendary South African jazz composer and pianist.
First, the Mail and Guardian, home of some of South Africa's best reporting and analysis, quoted my article, "'Mannenberg': Notes on the Making of an Icon and Anthem" in an story on great South African songs. Many people -- including me -- would argue that Mannenberg is the greatest of all South African songs.
As I said in the African Studies Quarterly, in 2007, Mannenberg blended...
...South African musical forms -- marabi, mbaqanga, and langarm--with American jazz-rock fusion. It quickly became an icon of South African jazz, defining the genre both within the country and overseas. ...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." ...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.
You can hear a bit of Mannenberg (yes, that's the way it's spelled on both the LP and CD re-release) in the Youtube video at the bottom of this post.
Second, by a strange and wonderful coincidence, Ibrahim was in Cape Town, last weekend, to play a concert with Cologne, Germany's WDR Big Band and to hold workshops for young musicians.
The concert was absolutely terrific. Ibrahim was at his best -- playing a brief but brilliant solo set to open the second half of the concert and encouraging, provoking, and inspiring the band from his seat at the piano.
Abdullah Ibrahim in concert with the WDR Big Band, Cape Town, 29 May 2010. (Photos copyright John Edwin Mason, 2010.)
Most of the music played at Saturday's concert is from Bombella, the new CD that Ibrahim and the WDR Big Band have just released. I'll be buying it as soon as I can. Each and every one of the songs is gorgeous, and Steve Gray's surprising and inventive arrangements compliment them perfectly.
Abdullah Ibrahim in concert with the WDR Big Band, Cape Town, 29 May 2010.
Ibrahim and the band will be performing later this week in Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg. Catch them if you can!