Bongeziwe MABANDLA: ‘ZANGE’, The FugeES, and the best places to eat in JOHANNESBURG

BONGEZIWE IS A SOUTH AFRICAN SINGER AND INSTRUMENTALIST WHO SINGS A DISTINCT STORYTELLING AFRO-FOLK IN THE XHOSA LANGUAGE, PERFORMING IN FESTIVALS AND CONCERTS ACROSS THE GLOBE. We caught up with Bongeziwe ahead of his 2021 world tour to chat about his latest work and his hit single ‘Zange’.

Zange is perhaps the biggest single of the album and a beautiful story o the power of love, what was the inspiration for writing this song? Is this still your favorite track on the album? 

This song is just a special song for me, I think it’s one of those songs that is interesting and melodic but also has a very easy and catchy element to it, songs like that work to me. Getting a message across but still getting people to dance is a winner and that’s why this song is strong for me. The message is very relatable and easy to understand because everyone has experienced what it is to love someone.

It is true that you originally moved to Johannesburg to study drama at AFDA? How did studying storytelling and Drama influence you as a musician? Is this where your theatrical/movie score style came from? 

It is! I was very serious about being an actor before the music bug hit me. I was studying drama at AFDA that I started performing music but I was studying music as a sub major and eventual changed in my second year to music. But even at AFDA I had started scoring some of the films we worked on I loved scoring to films but it’s such strange filming to be doing a lot of that in my career it took a long time but I have scored a lot of South African adverts and now some TV series as well. 

You recently played a show at Paradiso Amsterdam, was this your first time coming to Amsterdam? What did you think of the city and what was your experience performing here? 

I had been to Amsterdam last year I think and spent some time in the the city, that was for Afro Vibes Festival. I got to experience the city and see it a little more properly than this trip. I love Amsterdam a lot it’s a city I have always wanted to visit, I like the way the city looks, the openness of the people and also the fashion on the street and everyone on a bike. Paradiso was probably my best show on the tour it felt so good to be on that beautiful stage and to get the reaction I received.

Are you at all surprised by the international appreciation that you have received for your music, given that you sing regularly in Xhosa or is the universal nature of music able to transcend language barriers?

I am really surprised. I never really knew how music would open so many doors and I’m also so thankful so many people relate to my music despite the language barrier. It’s something I did not plan but just happened. 

Where do you start when you begin writing a new song? Do you like to begin with the instrumental, the lyrics or is it different each time? 

It’s different with each song, some songs begin with a word or a sentence while other start from a melody being sang but most start with a guitar and me singing different things. 

When listening to your last project LIMINI, I can hear a lot of folk inspiration from the likes of Tracy Chapman but also a HIP-HOP influence comparable to The Fugees. How does Hip-Hop influence your music? and who are some of your greatest musical influences?

Great question, growing up I loved listening to hip hop groups like the Fugees and I think that really influenced me. I also love artist like 2Pac, Dead Prez, Common, Nas, Spoek Mathambo, Tumi and Mos Def so my music always has drums and beats that are very hip hop. I hope one day I could spit a few bars myself. 

How do you think your musical ability/style has evolved or changed between the release of Mangaliso and the release of IIMINI?

I think it’s mainly the subject that has changed in Mangaliso it’s clear I was going through a lot but in imini the subject is love which I think is equally emotive and important. With this album I experimented a lot and rather developed that electro beat that I started adding to my sound. 

Lastly, What 3 places would you recommend we visit in Johannesburg too: 1) Hear some great music 2) Get some great food. 3)  Meet local creatives.

Kitcheners is one place I love in Joburg it brings a very interesting interaction with all kinds of people. I also love Roving Bantu in Britton especially their live performance experience. Johannesburg art gallery is also one of my favorite places to visit


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