When Bongeziwe Mabandla surfaced with his debut album in 2012 he was hailed as the new face of Afro-Folk, effortlessly able to entwine Xhosa lyrics with traditional music and folk stylings to create something uniquely captivating.
In the five years that have passed since Umlilo’s release, Mabandla has amplified his already considerable gifts and is now capable of joining Africa’s most highly regarded musical exports in creating a global audience for the music he makes.
That the Eastern Cape artist can move into territory occupied by Africa’s most gifted singer-songwriters (Baaba Maal; Ismaël Lô for instance) is visible in his second album, Mangaliso – his first through a new deal with Universal Music. The 10-track record is a sumptuous listen that spotlights Mabandla’s artistic growth into one of the most purposeful and gifted artists working in South Africa today.
The first single off Mangaliso is “Ndokhulandela”, a hypnotic song that showcases Mabandla’s meditative, yet powerful, voice – and provides an easy way in to what is likely to be one of 2017’s most acclaimed releases. And there are plenty more songs on the new album that more than prove the flurry of praise and accolades (including two South African Music Awards nominations) that surrounded Umlilo’s release were deserved. The album’s closing track “Bawo Wam”, for instance, carries with it spirit of the ancient in a song built around a distinctively modern beat-heavy groove and “Khaya” is evidence enough that Mabandla’s guitarwork is amongst the most lyrical South Africa has produced.
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