Talking to Bongeziwe Mabandla ahead of Onesight Acoustics

Bongeziwe Mabandla is one of those great artists bridging divides between music and culture…and giving new dimension to the South African music scene…and he’s playing Onesight! I couldn’t wait to ask him about his mustache and was left disappointed to learn he shaved it off. Every other aspect of the conversation was a delight though!

Richard Chemaly (RC): We love your mustache. Does it have specific resonance with you or do you have it because it looks cool?

Bongeziwe Mabandla (BM): I actually cut it off…been shaving now.

RC: Oh no! Well, still a good look! When I was a kid, I used to be embarrassed when my mother spoke to me in Arabic and would beg her to speak English to me in front of my mates. Today I regret not speaking it more. You, however, perform in Xhosa and seem really proud of that from the off. What advice would you give  a younger me to appreciate and develop heritage instead of selling out to fit in?

BM: I guess living in South Africa and growing up before 1994 we were always taught to embrace who we were. But it was in High School that I think I started to understand the need to identify myself as African. I was studying art history and got proud when we came to South African history. I leant how much we have contributed to the world in terms of art and the world. I decided that I would always be clear that the work I do would be specifically South African.

RC: I’m only able to understand your lyrics because of the translations offered on a couple of the videos. Are you happy that your work gets translated for a broader audience and, more importantly, don’t nuances get lost in the translations?

BM: I have been really blessed to have found an audiences out side South Africa I really did not plan this but it has became a big element of my work, with even suggestions I do some English songs to make sure I’m understood more broadly. So I’m really excited that my work can be translated into other languages and yes things do get lost in translation but as long as the message is carried out I’m good.

RC: Just before Onesight, it appears you’re going to be in Morocco. Other than that you seem to have traveled extensively. What’s the best thing about going away and coming back home? Where do you consider home?

BM: I’m not very big on being away from home but I learn so much when I’m away. I seem to always see life a little different from another country. I see my life and struggles with more insight. I also tend to write a lot from hotel rooms. I love meeting new friends and understanding their culture and ways of doing things, especially musicians. I love coming back to Joburg where I stay. I always miss home so much and my friends and just the everyday life in South Africa I think this is the best place to live in.

RC: We’ve never had the pleasure of seeing one of your gigs until now. What can we expect at Onesight?

BM: I’m going to be playing my new music that will be released soon. Its been a while since I took out music so its just a special time for me to be finally putting new music out there live and on CD.

You can check Bongeziwe Mabandla and other artists at Onsight this Sunday!


Date: Sunday, 27 November 2016
Venue: The GoodLuck Bar, JHB
Time: 2PM
Entrance: R100
Line-Up: Freshlyground, Bongeziwe Mabandla, Josh Kempen and Half ‘N Half
Facebook Event: