Mangaliso means miracle in Xhosa. Mabandla gives this title to his second full-length release to mark his arrival to a point that he has been searching for since his debut album released and flourishing career began. He posted to his Facebook page that he “wrote this song at a time when my eyes opened up to the beauty of life, the preciousness of life and the miracle that is life. It’s loosely written about my music journey and falling in love. It’s ultimately about chasing sunsets and sunrises and seeing beauty in the basic and ordinary. A way of life.” Mangaliso was released earlier in 2017 as Mabandla’s follow up to 2012’s Umlilo.
Mabandla wholesomely delivers an album that expresses an array of emotions amidst progressive musicality while referencing many South African styles of music throughout. He blends together South African folk, reggae, maskandi, Afro-rock and pop into his own unique style thus displaying a strong blend of traditional and contemporary Afrocentric songwriting. He and his producers search for many musical spaces by giving an album that has popular arrangements, such as voice and acoustic guitar or accompanied by a full rhythm section, adding to these simple set ups with beautifully designed timbres and instruments through synthesizers and samplers.
For example, the opening track, plainly titled “Intro”, bears warped harmonicas, Mbira and chimes. Mabandla captures this balladesque smoky sensation of the piece and then suddenly textures of polyrhythmic percussion and riffs appear. Contrast emphasizes the softness of the verse for the lyrical and instrumental elements to shine. Flavours of Tiago Correia Paulo’s musical personality are heard in the songwriting and production. This track is carefully constructed but not over thought.
Mangaliso was tracked in Cape Town by Ross Dorkin (Beatenberg) and produced by Tiago Correia Paulo (Tumi and the Volume; and 340ml), it also features Mike Wright (Zebra and Giraffe), Robin Brink (Beatenberg) and Spoek Mathambo. Thus Mabandla had incredible support in the process of creating a beautiful ten track album that can be considered a powerful follow up to his debut.
Tiago’s presence is quite noticeable in the fourth track, “Ndibuyule” that gives Mabandla’s unique take on reggae, holding a 340ml flavour. The use of samples playing a reggae drum groove, the up strum guitar and a beautiful arpeggiating riff are indicative of this. A powerful sub-bass hums below the light flowing percussive synths that fill out open spaces between the beat and guitar all in support of Mabandla’s vocals.
The album holds some great upbeat tracks too. “Ndofelapha” starts off unassumingly with a solemn synth riff and Mabandla’s stylized impassioned vocals. The title of the track is heard, a call response between Mabandla and a male choir, reminiscent of isicathamiya. Yet a seamless transition takes places as a light tip-toeing dance beat is introduced – this grows into the grooviest call and response ever. Harmony colours in emotion with the swooping and falling of chords to pull you up or bring you down as the beat comes and goes, creating a beautiful push and pull within the song, giving a sense of spirituality.
In Bongeziwe Mabandla’s new album, Mangaliso, Mabandla share’s his musical and personal narrative with a passionate and sensitive delivery. The album feels nostalgic as Mabandla makes the listener aware of how personal each song is to him. It is easy to relate to his music because of how sincere his vocal delivery comes through, although for some there is a language barrier.
The album is sung entirely in isiXhosa, and listeners (such as myself) who do not understand the lyrics may focus on the melody, and emotion of his voice more (but on a personal side note I’m incredibly curious to know what he is singing about – there is some information on his website and Facebook page). Still I found myself drawn to the music and feeling of his singing.
On his official website, he writes of the album that “It’s about my hopes and my regrets, about the darkness and the light and about life and death and our very existence. Although elements of the album are very contemporary, there is a quality to the songs and music that captures the deep spirituality that has always been in Africa.”
The beautifully written melodies, thoughtful instrumentation and his sincere delivery definitely make it easy to engage with his music. It would be incredible to understand the lyrics simultaneously for myself and many others. Nonetheless, the music is accessible and relatable, one does not necessarily need to understand his lyrics to feel his emotion and sentiment.
Bongeziwe Mabandla’s latest released album, Mangaliso, moves the listener to a warm and thoughtful space and it has been composed and produced to be a unique piece of work. Mabandla has an undeniable ability to express his hopes and regrets and portray dark and light thoughts, and in so doing creates an album full of spirituality as he displays his introspections. The music ebbs and flows with spiritually.