The break he deserves: Bongeziwe Mabandla

A timeless voice that recalls Jabu Khanyile of Bayete, poignant lyrics of social realism and personal revelation and a folky style that will appeal to anyone who likes Simphiwe Dana, Thandiswa, Zahara or Freshly. Bongeziwe Mabandla is a powerful presence and a vibrant new South African artist.

He’s recently been signed to Sony, but he’s been performing on the Joburg scene for years. I first met him when we performed at the House of Nsako in Brixton during its brief spell as coolest hangout in town.

Bongeziwe comes from Transkei, where he studied at the Lady Grey Arts Academy. After that, he came to Joburg to study at Afda. Since then he’s been carving a niche for himself as a musician and actor.

He’s been on Generations, Sokhulu Partners and you can see him in the forthcoming movie A Million Colours, sequel to Seventies classic e’Lollipop.

One of Bongeziwe’s big breaks was an encounter with 340ml drummer Paulo Chibanga at the Portuguese cafe in Seventh Street, Melville. Bongeziwe mentioned he had some songs, Paulo mentioned they were starting a record label, and soon our man was signed to 340ml Music.

In those Nsako days, the song that always moved me and gave my total goosies, even though I barely understood a word of it was Gunuza. It tells the story of a rich man in a community who hides a dark secret.

In the end, Gunuza is the lead-off single marking the release of his debut album now that Sony have taken over from 340ml. The album’s called Umlilo. Power video too…