When Bongeziwe Mabandla surfaced with his debut album in 2012 he was hailed as the new face of Afro-Folk, effortlessly able to entwine Xhosa lyrics with traditional music and folk stylings to create something uniquely captivating.
In the five years that have passed since Umlilo’s release, he’s amplified his already considerable gifts, with tours to Australia, Asia and Canada, appearances at several international and national festivals and an invigorated approach to songwriting that’s adding elements of spirituality and forward-looking creativity to his unique musical mix.
I recently had a chat to Bongeziwe Mabandla about Liefde By Die Dam and a few other things…
This is what he had to say:
Was there a defining moment in your life that you knew you wanted to make music your career?
I think it’s the time I got to Johannesburg – there was movement at the time. People were claiming their culture back I really wanted to be part of it. I started listening to music that I had not been aware of before. Busi Mhlongo Jabu Khanyile, Kwani Experience and Sakhile but it was Simphiwe Dana who was a big influence at the point of my life.
Usually once we know what we want, some miracles present themselves to help us along the way. Did you experience this? And if so, what were these miracles?
I finished school and met Paulo Chibanga from 340ml at the shop near my place. I decided to gather the courage to talk to him I told him I had some songs that I wanted to record. I did not know that moment would change my life forever. I have always loved music, but I was not sure if I was good enough for a long time.
If you were not a singer/songwriter, what other career/s would you have liked to pursue?
I studied Drama and was sure I was going to be a big actor in South Africa. I have been on a few TV soapies and series. But honestly, I have a big interest in forensics – I would have loved to work in that kind of job. I also grew up drawing a lot so I think being a visual artist is actually my true calling – hopefully this music thing goes very well so I can have time to do some artworks.
Which topics in conversation fascinate you?
I love stories about overcoming bad situation or change. I’m always so inspired when I talk to people who have changed their lives around.
Do you have a mentor? Who is this and why do you feel that this person is valuable in your life.
I don’t have one, but I can say that I have always looked up to the guys from 340ml. They have taught me so much about music and have given me so much belief and support. I still, to this day, aspire to be like the good people they are.
Congratulations with your SAMA win! How did you feel in that moment?
It was amazing! I had prepared myself for the disappointment, so it was a real surprise! I’m just happy to receive some recognition for the hard work I’ve put in.
We are looking forward to see you at Liefde by die Dam. What can fans expect?
I’m very excited about this festival! I’m coming with my band and I’m hoping to speak some Afrikaans on stage. I actually went to Lady Grey for high school and they speak a lot of Afrikaans, so I’m hoping I could show off my skills a bit. But I’m a little bit shy to make a mistake. I love the expressiveness in the language.
I would like to thank Bongeziwe Mabandla for this interview and I wish him all of the best with his performance at Liefde By Die Dam 2018 and his future musical endeavors.
Watch this space for regular updates in the Music category on Running Wolf’s Rant.