BONGEZIWE MABANDLA’S MUSIC TRANSCENDS LANGUAGE
A Summer 2015 Yukon Prospector Web Extra
It’s rare for me to break out in goose bumps at a concert. Even rarer that I put down my camera and just listen. Bongeziwe Mabandla made me do both.
Mabandla’s music sounds like a lot of western folk: acoustic guitar, melodic vocals, and wholehearted lyrics. His influences come from around the globe: Tracy Chapman, Bob Marley, Lauren Hill, and Simphiwe Dana to name a few. But his execution is flawless. His calm demeanor and serene, uplifting voice speaks to listeners in the global voice of good music.
The South African’s vocals are so smooth I didn’t even care he was mostly singing in Xhosa, one of his country’s official languages. A language I don’t understand a word of.
"I know that music is like a weapon. It’s got this great ability to change things."
Up on stage he rocks a colourful turquoise sports jacket over a plain white shirt and black pants. He’s active for a folk musician. Ripping into his guitar solos with fevered intensity, playing to the crowd, even coming right down into it at one point. It’s appreciated. After his set almost everyone in the packed tent gives him a standing ovation.
The 2015 Atlin Arts and Music Festival is Mabandla’s first time in Canada he says to me later.
So far he’s loved the experience, although he’s having a bit of trouble getting used to the north’s never-ending sun. Plus, he says he’s a bit culture shocked. “I feel like all these people have clever things to say, and I’ve got nothing clever,” he says laughing. “And there’s a different pace here, a different struggle.”
He’s having a blast anyways. He’s gotten a lot of ideas from the musicians he’s interacted with, and says “it’s an exchange that should happen more often.”
“This festival has been amazing. It’s what my idea of music should be like. It’s all about connecting with people, laid back, close to nature with the beautiful mountains. The hippy vibes are the kinda vibes I like.”
Mabandla definitely has a bit of a “hippy” vibe to his music. In one of the two English songs he sung, he asked the audience to remember that not everyone was fortunate as we were. “I always try and write from life. I know that music is like a weapon. It’s got this great ability to change things. I try to come at my music from a place like that. How can someone listen to my song and really be impacted by words, and changed you know.”
Mabandla says he wants his music to lift people too and that he likes to sing about hope.
“I know that it’s happened to me that I’ve listened to music, and I’ve been able to understand or be more aware of something that I wasn’t before," he says. "So I really don’t take it for granted, how to use the power of music.”
You can catch him in Canada during the summer of 2015. He’ll play the Vancouver Folk Festival, the Mission Folk Festival, and in Canmore, Alberta.
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