Bongeziwe Mabandla released his album ‘iimini’ on the day the lockdown started.
Bongeziwe Mabandla released his album ‘iimini’ on the day the lockdown started.

An album of love in time of corona

By Mpiletso Motumi Time of article published Apr 2, 2020

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Bongeziwe Mabandla wrote his latest album iimini in eight months.

“And then I spent about another year-and-a-half with the recording and mixing until it came out. My previous album took five years, that was way too long but I didn’t intend for it to be that long. With this one it was more of the right time I needed.”

iimini explores relationships and their complexities. “I was in a relationship, very much in love and we started to have a lot of problems I would always be discussing this with my friends who were going through very similar things.

“I thought this ‘conference’ should be heard in music because everybody has such strong feelings about finding the one, being heartbroken and being played.”

The album reached No 1 on iTunes SA at a time when South Africans are using the internet as their main source of recreation.

“I had made journal-like notes and that’s how I put the album together. I wanted to tell the story of how beautiful a relationship starts and how you feel connected to somebody but also the difficulties that come with it. It is not always as easy as finding someone to love and they love you back. I wanted to write about the pain of loving somebody, the sacrifice, the betrayals and the heartbreak.”

The 12-track album tells a story with each song.

“One of my favourites is Bambelela Kum. It’s about trying to make a difficult relationship work. The song is about having someone who really understands you and your mind but you are constantly in conflict. You think ‘if I am not with this person who will understand me better’. It’s about your chosen family and trying to make it work with people that you have a strong bond and connection with.”

Social distancing has had a positive effect on Mabandla in regard to his album. He released the album the same day the lockdown started.

“I am always a believer that things happen for a reason. I am hoping the music is a source of companionship for people during this time. I do think a lot of people will be thinking about people they love.” 

Bongeziwe Mabandla released his album ‘iimini’ on the day the lockdown started.

Mabandla has always done well on streaming platforms but never reached No 1 before.

iimini has also reached the top of the charts in Botswana, number two in France and Switzerland and number three in the Netherlands.

It has also kept a steady number 23 in the US.

“It’s what we were aiming for, but I was a bit surprised when it happened. I think people are discovering artists and the mood of my album is definitely something that if you are alone at home is quite enjoyable rather than playing it while you are running errands.”

Mabandla’s music has a worldly reach, allowing him to tap into audiences across the globe.

“I think my influences play a big role. I’ve always loved different kinds of music, specifically music like Tracy Chapman, Bon Iver, Frank Ocean, Solange and Lauryn Hill. Although I do a lot of South African music, my influences are not just from here. So I think people can definitely feel my music even though they can’t understand the language.”

He said he wanted people to listen to iimini with intent.

“For me, the album has taught me about connections. You can’t have that joy love can bring if you don’t have that self love for yourself. I think that is really the conclusion to the album. If you are searching for love you need to look inwards.”

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