header photo by Lidudamalingani
We are totally in love with the song Isiphelo by South African artist Bongeziwe Mabandla and cannot get enough of watching his live video in which he performs it togehter with Tiago Correia-Paulo. Out of his third album Iimini, which explores the theme of time, the rhythm of Isiphelo and Bongeziwe voice carries the listener away and touches deeply. We had a chat with the talented artist about his decision to become a musician, the challenge of releasing an album during the current difficult times and why it is so important to him to live his greatest dreams out.
Hey dear Bongeziwe, I am just listening to your song Isiphelo. It´s so beautiful and I got immediately captured! Tell me what the title means and what the song is about? And you sing it in Zulu, am I right?
I sing in isiXhosa which is similar to Zulu.
The song is out of your album iimini. What does iimini mean? And what was the main inspiration for the songs on the album?
iimini means “ Days” ( loosely named after my favourite soap opera, as a child’ Days of our lives’) The album title is about the time and period spent with someone. The album explores the theme of time.
You released the album last year in March – how big was the challenge for you as an artist to release it in the middle of those difficult times?
My album did come out at a difficult time and taking the risk to go ahead with it was not easy but I feel so many people got to find the time to really listen to it more and with any major distractions. Also many people connected to the music as a result of the intense emotions that we all dealt with as a result of the pandemic; some of those were isolation and loneliness.
“The album title is about the time and period spent with someone. The album explores the theme of time.”
In the meantime you have been playing live concerts again – how was it to be back on stage? Did it feel any different than before the Covid situation? ( such as the way you felt and the vibe oft the audience..)
I am happy to be back on the stage. Rehearsing with Tiago, developing the show with the technical team and mostly seeing people who love the music up close has been very meaningful. During lockdown I got to work so much on developing myself in different ways as an artist and also personally. I think all of that has made me come back a little stronger.
How did you get into music in the first place and when did you decide you wanted to do be a professional musician?
I remember my brother explaining what a record deal was to me when I really young. To me it seemed like the most exciting thing ever and since then I knew it was something I wanted to do also I have always loved singing. Years later I would meet Paulo Chibanga, drummer of SA’s legendary 340ml, at a store near my place and decided to talk to him about helping me put together a demo. That was the beginning.. A few months later he signed me to his label and my journey as a professional musician started.
Who are your musical role models and music you listen to yourself?
Lauryn Hill has probably been my biggest influence especially the unplugged album but I have so many artist I love. Thandiswa Mazwai played a huge role as an influence. Also Simphiwe Dana, Tracy Chapman, India Arie.
“The most important thing for me is to live my greatest dreams out. My life is very different from how it started so it’s real important for me to find love, peace, and freedom.”
How did the collaboration of performing wih Tiago Correia-Paulo came about?
My manager Sevi Spanoudi, introduced us. She had listened to another album he had produced for Zaki Ibrahim and thought it would be a good fit. We met at her hotel in Johannesburg and the rest is history. Tiago is not only a performer in the show. He is also the producer of my last two albums and co-composer in majority of the tracks.
Where is your best creative place?
I love working from my place. It gives me the freedom to be in the songs more.
Are you an extrovert or introvert?
I can be extremely shy when I don’t know people well. But once I get comfortable I will out talk to anyone. I love conversations and telling jokes.
My favourite food at the moment is sushi
What´s the most important thing for you in life?
The most important thing for me is to live my greatest dreams out. My life is very different from how it started so it’s real important for me to find love, peace, and freedom.