Photo: Justice Mukheli

Bongeziwe Mabandla is Paving his Own Lane

By Kobus Erasmus

Bongeziwe Mabandla’s musical journey is a decade in the making. The Johannesburg-based artist was born in Worcester and raised in the small town of Tsolo in the Eastern Cape. Mabandla explained the important role music played in his life from a young age. 

“You know in [small towns] there isn’t much going on and people [are drawn] to things that entertain. And so [music became] sort of an escape.” 

When discussing his creative process, Mabandla noted the high standards he has for his writing, and the importance of spending a lot of time finding the right lyrics.

“I’m always trying to get the most [out of my lyrics], I’m fascinated by specifics,” he says.

Mabandla has three studio albums under his belt, with 2022 marking ten years since the release of his debut album, Umlilo. When listening through his discography, his evolution as an artist becomes clear. His most recent album, iimini, takes a more experimental approach than his previous records. By incorporating electronic elements to his established style, Mabandla proves his commitment to constant artistic growth.

“I think my music is evolving and artists like Frank Ocean, Solange and Blood Orange are big influences for me. Everything I do is measured against how artistic and interesting it is – both for me and my audience,” he says.

Photo: Francis Buseko

Mabandla’s fourth album is currently in the works, and much like iimini, will focus on themes of love and loneliness. 

“These two albums really are a close look to our human obsession with falling in love… and [why] the aspect of ‘finding the one’ is so important [to us] … it seems like something that everyone is looking for and so many are not getting right. [The album] also focuses on the lack of love, and feeling like you are struggling to find a soulmate.”

In 2020 Mabandla appeared alongside international acts such as Giveon and Glass Animals as part of ColorsxStudios’ HOME/BRED series. The series took place during the international lockdown and aimed to showcase talent from all around the world.

“I’ve always wanted to [be on the show], [so] I was really touched that I was part of it. I recorded it at home with my cousin, it was really really special.”

Mabandla is a man of many talents. Other than making music, he is set to play the character of Ezra in the upcoming film, Augure.

When asked about what advice he would give to his younger self, Mabandla highlighted the importance of self-love and to trust one’s ideas. 

“I feel like my life is always propelling me to believe in myself, and to feel like I am worthy. I feel like I grew up not really aware that everything I needed was within,” he explained.

With new music on the horizon and a headline performance at the Stellenbosch Woordfees on 14 October, Bongeziwe Mabandla is on a clear cut-path to the top.

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