By Buhle Andisiwe Made
On the first of what we hope to be many Southern African tours, Bongeziwe Mabandla – a multi-award winning singer and songwriter who has graced national and international stages had his debut act at the 1820 Settlers Monument in Makhanda on Friday, 06 October, after kickstarting the Eastern Cape leg of his tour on his homegrown, East London. Mabandla serenaded his audience with a compilation of his songs from his fourth studio album, amaXesha – meaning “times”.
As though he is from the Romantic Period, which emphasises emotion and imagination, Mabandla’s melodies make you want to fall in love so that you can experience the feelings he’s attached to the person he speaks to throughout his songs – with lyrics so vivid and personal; he makes John Keats’ love for Fanny Browne seem fair.
Mabandla’s soulful sound is sung mainly in IsiXhosa and English. A special and intimate note as the artist reimagines Xhosa folk music. Mabandla’s native expressions allow him to connect more intimately to his music; in turn, the audience can gauge how comfortable and free he is while creating it. As amaXhosa would say about the language, “IsiXhosa asitolikwa”, meaning you can’t translate IsiXhosa, which indicates that had his songs been performed in any other language besides his own, they would have been stripped of their meaning and affinity.
Influenced by various people in his life, his album speaks to those closest to him: family, partners, friends and moments in his life. The album, titled amaXesha, which means times – speaks to the personal moments in one’s life that may seem trivial but have significant value when looking at them through a reflective lens. Mabandla says, “Apparently, when you die, your life flashes in front of you: how you have all these moments, and you realise these specific memories past together are my life”.
Comparing his international and local performances, Mabandla speaks about his different engagements with the crowd, adding that the South African crowd is interactive. “That’s what I find fascinating about performing in different places – understanding different cultures and how people interpret music,” he says.
To experience AmaXesha album come to life was monumental, as the crowd participated by singing along throughout the scheduled 2-hour performance, engaging primarily with the popular hit ‘Zange’ off of the album ‘Iimini’ – Mabandla’s previous body of work.
During the performance, the ‘Soze’ singer’s voice, full of vigour, transcended the audience into a spiritual realm.
Amazed at the outpouring support of a young audience, Mabandla tells Grocott’s Mail that he didn’t expect
to have a crowd of centennials, sharing that it brings him joy to know that his music can be
roistered across a range of age groups. His Tour manager, Bianca Buisman, co-signed the statement, saying, “The new youth are ready.”