Interview; Bongeziwe Mabandla; SA’s Modern Miracle part 1

28th April 2020 BY Ivis Ngwenya

Have you ever just spoken to someone and think “wow, this person is an incredible soul!” That’s how I would describe Mr Bongeziwe Mabandla. He is the definition of a musician – he makes music to connect with people, not for the sake of money or hitting number #1. His songs tell stories of his past experiences and his journey through life, which as a listener, I have to commemorate him for because it is so rare to find an artist these days that takes direct situations from their lives and puts it into their own music. Listening to his new album Iimini you feel as though you’re walking with him through this relationship, experiencing ever inch f his emotion! It is truly a beautifully curated album and it reminds me so much of why I love Afro-soul music!

How would you say growing up in Tsolo shaped you as a singer/ songwriter? Is your childhood one of your sources of inspiration?

Where I grew up it is a very rural place and I think that growing up in a rural area really forces your creativity – there was a lot of things that we didn’t have growing up, like a TV, I only got to have a TV when I was a little bit older. So we had to kind of invent our fun and when I think about it a lot of our fun was based on imagining a lot of things that necessarily weren’t there so I grew up with a huge imagination. And I think coming from a rural place I was fascinated by a lot of things that other kids weren’t; like seeing a guitar for the first time or a piano and also learning how a mike works.

I definitely think writing music in Xhosa – a lot of my thinking and my stories are about where I come from – my childhood

How was your European tour last year and was your favourite part, most importantly how did it feel to sell out in London?

I think it is always beautiful to be able to share music with people and music that means something to you. Europe is definitely one of those places that have opened up to my music. I never thought that that would happen, most of the time on the road was spent in France. I really enjoyed just taking in the culture and I think that is really what fascinated me when I go to different places – seeing the differences and similarities they have to South Africa.

My favourite part has to have been Zurich, that was our last show and it was just a really special moment; a packed room, a sold-out concert, everyone embracing the music. I was so surprised that I sold out and a lot of times when I go to Europe people always tell me how far they’ve travelled just to see me perform and it’s just really beautiful to see how my music has touched people and almost has this connecting force.

I saw online that you’re described as a modern ‘miracle’ from SA. Personally, how would you describe your sound?

My music, I think it’s like sort of soul music, I have defiantly been interested from a young age to do music about the human heart, so yeah soul music. Definitely music with a lot of emotion and I would say very genuine and very honest music, at least that’s what I try to do.

Out of all of your albums, which one holds the most significant in your life and why?

Hmmm, I think hmmm, it’s a hard one to say – it’s like having three kids and saying “yo, which one do you love the most?.”. Each one id different but if I had to pick, it’s my first one because I wouldn’t be doing albums right now if I hadn’t released it. The second because of the subject matter, I think I delt a lot with changing and transitioning from the person I was when I produced my first one. And then I also love this one because it’s my current one, my best one and it’s really about I topic I feel so strongly about!

Why did you decide on the title ‘Iimini’ for your new album, what was the inspiration behind it?

Iimini also means in the day/ afternoon, however, it is the double I that makes it Days in Xhosa – so a lot of those afternoons so days basically. I decided to call this album Iimini mainly because the album deals with a relationship and it deals with love – the experience, the actual relationship, the memories – it’s all of that put together in days. I wanted to pay attention to time and a collection of days put together you know, to commemorate the days gone by.

I noticed that some of the songs on the album have dates beside them and one is even entitled 9.2.17, why is that?

This album is directly from my life and I think that when you are writing about your life you have to pull up certain things that are factual or truthful or find a way to get to as close to the truth as possible. I think people appreciate that so I tried to go back and realise when did this happen in my actual relationship, it’s like a movie, a timeline but in a musical way!