SAMA award-winning musician Bongeziwe Mabandla has just released his third studio album, Iimini. He tells us about his new offering, musical inspirations and career highlights. By Kwanele Mathebula
I grew up in Tsolo, Eastern Cape. I loved music from an early age. So, I attended an art school called Lady Grey Arts Academy where I learnt how to play the guitar. After high school, I moved to Johannesburg to study acting at AFDA. After graduating, I attended auditions and landed acting jobs on television shows such as Generations and a few others. Even though I loved acting, my passion for music took over.
My fondest memories with music include my mother because we were close when I was growing up. I remember waiting for her to come back home from work because I knew that she would bring me something. I would run to her every day when I saw her coming up the street, and would tell her what I did at school - it was our thing.
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My music dream was realised when the 340ml Record Label offered me a record deal. The music band ran the label at the time, and I was excited to sign with them. Although I loved music, I had no idea what it took to create it. It was something I got into by experimenting because I wanted to understand how a studio and the recording process worked. When people heard what I was making, they complimented my work. It wasn’t until I recorded with Paulo Chibanga from 340ml that I realised that I could actually do this. So, after signing with the band’s label, they put me in touch with Sony Music whom I released my first album, Umlilo, with.
Iimini has been my passion project for the last 2 years. I named the album iimini, which means days, because it’s about a relationship and it documents that love story from beginning to the end. I wanted to express that the days are markets for the memories and experiences in that relationship. I wanted it to be filled with real subjects and topics that people could relate to. I decided to reference my own relationship and look at the highs and lows of it. I wanted to make a very creative album that was experimental. It took about 6-8 months of writing and re-writing the songs. Then it took 21 days of putting the songs together, and then a few more sessions to record the album. So, the whole thing took about two years from conception to delivery.
I hope to digitally bring my music to more people, and hopefully get back to traveling and touring again soon. I hope many people discover my music and they tell others about it. It would also be great to hear it on South African radio station. It would mean a lot since European, Australian and American radio stations have already played it.
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It is one week since the release of iimini. I am so grateful for the way in which the album has been received but it wouldn’t have been possible without all the people who helped put iimini together. Wanted to take a moment to send a few words of gratitude to all the people who contributed to this release. @a1000000things who produced the album and made way for me to express myself fully, I can not put words to the love and gratitude I have for you. @kachowsky who engineered and mixed the album in Maputo, thank you for all the kindness you showed us. @rogankelsey who mastered the album and sent the most encouraging words at a time that we needed them. Massive thank you to @sonlittlemusic for agreeing to be part of this project and for sharing your beautiful performance on the track Ukwahlukana. Special thank you to my friends @lidudumalingani and @justicemukheli for capturing the visuals to accompany the release, for being such amazing and important visual artists in our country. Thank you to @weareplatoon for releasing the album with so much support and care, your energy means a lot. Special thank you to @jaytweek and Larah at Black Major for all the sacrifices, time and attention to detail put into this project. Thank you @sakifoprod for your constant support and presence in my career. Last but not least to my manager @spanoudi at @blackmajorsa for all the sleepless nights working on this album, hope you know how much I love you.
While recording the album, my voice gave me some problems at times. Working with a perfectionist like my producer Tiago Correia Paulo was also tough at times. I felt that I had to really dig deep. Also, being comfortable in a studio was a challenge. We tried five different studios, looking for a comfortable place where I could be at ease while recording. This resulted in most of the album being recorded in Tiago’s home studio because it was the one place where I was at my happiest.
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Winning best alternative SAMA for my album Mangaliso was an incredible career highlight. It was something that I had always wanted to achieve, and I remember how happy I was that night. It took me back to the child in me that dreamt of being a singer.