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Bongeziwe Mabandla first captivated audiences with his haunting, ethereal voice in 2012. Now the artist – hailed as the face of Future-Folk – is back with an incredible and soulful new single.

JIKELEZA, which means to go around, is a song about love giving us life, according to the singer. “It is about our universal need to connect. It is about the togetherness in people and about the things that bind us and make us the same.”

Written by the artist – who is known as much for his ability to entwine Xhosa lyrics with traditional music and folk stylings as he is for his invigorated approach to songwriting – the song was inspired by the idea of loving one another in a world where there seems to be so little.

While JIKELEZA has a rather strong message, Bongeziwe wanted to make it fun, relatable and easy. The latter part, however, proved to be rather difficult. “Writing the song was a challenge. It took a lot of rewriting and getting feedback from the team, and I wrote many different parts before I got it right,” says Bongeziwe. “The idea came together when we decided to play around with making each part distinct, with each verse coming from a different place.”

Bongeziwe describes the single, which showcases his meditative yet powerful voice, as an interesting mix of sounds. “JIKELEZA has very South African feel but with a mix of a very modern global texture. The song has a playful side to it and while it is probably my most fun single to date, it is also very special as it comes from a real and compassionate place. It is a positive song with a very relevant message in South Africa right now.”

JIKELEZA is also unique in the sense that it was written with a live audience in mind. “I wrote this song for the listener to get involved, and the call and response part is my favourite. I thought a lot about how it would be live and the way an audience would feel and interact at a festival, for example. When I was writing it, I was imagining the live stage version.”

Born in Tsolo, a rural part of the Eastern Cape, Bongeziwe grew up with a passion for art and music. As a student, he started to write songs and perform solo gigs while developing his own unplugged music style and earning recognition as a musician. He released his debut album, Umlilo, in 2012, followed by Mangaliso, his second album – the first through his deal with Universal Music – in 2017.

“My first album was released in 2012. That’s when I would say my career officially started. My journey in the industry has been slow but it has been a very interesting story with great accomplishments, lots of travel, and the opportunity to create introspective work.”

Since the release of Umlilo, the artist has toured Australia, Asia and Canada, with appearances at several international and national festivals. Despite all this, he lists his career highlight to date as winning his first SAMA (South African Music Award) for Mangaliso. “As I did not expect to win, it made me extremely happy. It made me think about all the hard work I have put in. What made it extra special, however, was speaking to my mother on the phone later that night.”

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New beginning…… 📸: @dancartertc.

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Genuine and introspective, Bongeziwe’s music documents the experiences of human life and reflects his background and personal journey. “I love music because it has the power to change things, and I think music has the ability to make people think and change. Like many artists trying to make sense of this difficult world, I write about trying to make it, about growing up poor and without a father, about falling in and out of love… I think people find themselves in my lyrics because they can relate and because my lyrics come from a real and genuine place.”

As for his musical influences, the artist is influenced by many artists in many ways. “Musically and vocally I am always influenced by my own culture, my country, and Joburg, where I live.”

Constantly busy with a number of things – from writing to rehearsing and everything in between – and with a bright future ahead, Bongeziwe remains humble. “I am incredibly grateful to be doing what I love and traveling the world while I do it,” he says. “Now, more than ever, I believe that we create our own reality. I realise that my life is ultimately controlled by me.”

Stream/Listen to Jikeleza Here:

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