Bongeziwe Mabandla: A Diamond in the Rough - Bubblegum Club

Bongeziwe Mabandla: A Diamond in the Rough 

South African musician Bongeziwe Mabandla has carved a remarkable path in the world of music and artistry. With a growing list of accolades, an expanding global audience, and a unique blend of Xhosa lyrics, folk melodies, and experimental sounds, Mabandla’s journey is a testament to the power of music to transcend language and culture.

The first time I listened to a Bongeziwe Mabandla song, I felt immediately transported into his world through his folksy sound and heartfelt lyrics. The words of “Noba Bangathini” reverted through me and although my grasp of Xhosa is very loose, the emotions conveyed through the song are so universal, that one is transported into a world where the Xhosa language becomes secondary to the universal emotions conveyed through his heartfelt lyrics and folksy sound. His unique sound allows listeners to connect with it on a deeply emotional level, regardless of their language proficiency. It’s this universal appeal that has contributed to his success overseas, particularly in Europe and other parts of Southern Africa.

Mabandla’s musical career is a tale of talent and dedication, with his artistry taking him to numerous national and international stages. He has achieved recognition for his distinctive sound and heartfelt lyrics, resonating with audiences both in his home country of South Africa and beyond. At the 2018 South African Music Awards (SAMAs), he won the award for Best Alternative Music Album with “Mangaliso.” This recognition was a pivotal moment in his career, marking the beginning of a journey that would lead to even greater acclaim.

In an era where sharing music with others has become as easy as taking a screenshot on Spotify or Apple Music, there’s a nostalgic sense of intimacy in keeping a song to oneself. It’s a notion rooted in the belief that, by not sharing a song, one can savour it as a personalised soundtrack to their own life. Bongeziwe Mabandla’s music encapsulates this feeling of exclusivity and personal connection. His low, melodic sound and intensely personal lyrics create the sensation that each song is a handwritten love letter, addressed to every individual listener.

One of his most recent albums, “iimini,” went on to win the Best Alternative Music Album category at the 2021 SAMAs. This album showcased Mabandla’s evolution as an artist, combining his folk roots with expansive electronica, demonstrating a willingness to experiment and push the boundaries of his music. This daring fusion of genres has not only broadened his sound but has also amplified his presence on the global music stage.

Mabandla’s success extends beyond the music itself. His music videos, like the collaboration with Spoek Mathambo on “Bawo Wam,” have earned him recognition in the visual arts as well. He was awarded Best Music Video at the 2018 Capital City Black Film Awards and the Jozi Film Fest, underscoring his multifaceted talent as an artist.

Mabandla’s ongoing Amaxhesa tour is a testament to his commitment to sharing his music with a broader audience while maintaining the intimacy of his sound. This tour is an opportunity for fans, old and new, to experience the magic of his music in a live setting. It promises to be a journey through the heart and soul of South African music, with Mabandla as the guide.

Bongeziwe Mabandla’s musical journey is a testament to the universal power of music, and evidence that South Africa’s musical landscape is broad and accepting of all genres. His ability to bridge cultural and linguistic gaps through his music is a testament to his talent and artistry. In a world that’s increasingly interconnected, Bongeziwe Mabandla’s music reminds us that, sometimes, the most profound connections are made through the simplicity of melody and emotion.

Bongeziwe Mabandla
Image courtesy of NPR and Internet Archives 

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