Bongeziwe Mabandla expands his global audience while finishing an album set to cement his standing as an artist of the most singular gifts.
iimini (days) has been released through London-based Platoon (Princess Nokia, Victoria Monet, Maleek Berry, Samthing Soweto, Sun-El Musician), joining 2012’s Umlilo and 2017’s Mangaliso in capturing the recorded output of an artist who has been described as a “modern miracle” by Radio France Internationale (RFI) and recently profiled in prestigious UK music magazine, Songlines.
Mabandla first came to the attention of audiences outside South Africa when he was named one of 10 finalists in the 2011 Radio France Internationale Discoveries Awards. That was on the cusp of the release of Umlilo (“fire”) when Mabandla was refining his performing skills and songwriting – the latter then a gorgeous, understated mix of Xhosa lyrics with traditional music and folk stylings.
The latter part of 2019 saw Mabandla 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. A real triumph for Mabandla was his 2018 concert at the Soweto Theatre in Johannesburg, where his emotional, nuanced and moving performances won him even more homegrown devotees.
As he eyes the coming year, Mabandla is keenly aware of what lies ahead for an artist who upends stereotypes of what music produced in Africa circa 2020 sounds like. He’s preparing to take iimini on the road – and spreading his creative wings through unexpected collaborations and much more.