On his third album, SAMA award-winning artist, Bongeziwe Mabandla, offers up a collection of songs that trace the unfolding of love with pure sonic beauty, from the day of first meeting to the heartbreaking end.
Titled iimini, Mabandla’s offering presents a cycle of 12 songs, with a beginning, middle and end, and is intended to be listened to as a whole. It’s the latest from the artist whose singular repertoire has gained him the title of “the enigmatic spirit of African soul”. It’s also the first to be released with Platoon, a London-based artist services company that is playing a role in helping African and South African artists showcase their creativity to the world.
“iimini starts off with meeting someone and how feelings evolve to love, and then the pain and heartache of being with someone,” says Mabandla of the album’s underpinning theme. “The last songs are about the end of relationship and the cutting of ties, and basically the separation of people who used to be incomplete without each other.”
Mabandla explains that his attachment to one-theme albums (the notion of marvelling and miracles drove Mangaliso) springs from a desire to make visible what is important in his own life. “But the difficulty of making an album about one thing is that you have to find the multiple stories within that single subject,” he confides. In searching for these narratives, Mabandla drew inspiration from his roots – growing up in Tsolo, a rural part of South Africa’s Eastern Cape, and then moving to study acting in Johannesburg. “I’ve always loved listening to lyrics. South Africans love storytelling in a song and I am led by a desire to be part of that tradition when writing.”
With a repertoire centred around 2012’s Umlilo, the award-winning Mangaliso and now iimini, Mabandla is building his audience, both at home and internationally. The latter part of 2019 saw him play Reeperbahn Festival (Germany), Lake of Stars (Malawi), five dates at Afrovibes Festival (Netherlands), Womex (Finland), and the Oslo World Festival (Norway). In November 2019 he performed to a sold-out audience at London’s 100 Club along with eight dates in France (including sold-out shows in Paris and Strasbourg), and his first sold out show in Zurich, Switzerland.
For the artist, there’s a natural progression from his first days performing his songs on just an acoustic guitar to his current standing as one of Africa’s most adventurous, engaging and essential artists. “I started off as a folk artist, but my music is evolving and changing and iimini captures where I am right now just perfectly,” Mabandla concludes.
iimini is released by Platoon, seeing Mabandla join the likes of Princess Nokia, Victoria Monet, Maleek Berry, Mr Eazi, Santi, Odunsi the Engine, Kwesi Arthur, Samthing Soweto, Ami Faku, Sun-El Musician, Sino Solo, Msaki and The Word of Birds in releasing through the defiantly artist-centric music company.
The song can be streamed on various music streaming sites globally.