In Conversation with Bongeziwe Mabandla About ‘iimini’ Ahead of His Colors Show

SAMA Award-winning Afro-soul artist, Bongeziwe Mabandla has won the hearts of many with his new album, iimini. Mabandla’s newly released album tells the story of rising passion, loving partnership, and eventual, inevitable heartbreak. Throughout the album, we see the artist’s tale unfold; each song acts as a chapter in a book, pulled together by his vocal narrative described as the enigmatic spirit of an African soul.

We spoke to Mabandla ahead of his Colors performance.

Briefly tell us about working on the album, when did you start putting it together and how long it took you?

I started working on iimini around two years ago. I remember we were in Greece when my manager, Sevi Spanoudi, told me to start thinking about writing a new album. I had a few ideas, I had a book that I had written notes about my relationship and decided to make an album about those entries later on as songs. I started putting the lyrics together and writing the song for about six months then got into the studio with Tiago to record those ideas. From there, we took some time with the final recordings and all the layers. Part of the album was recorded in Maputo, at Auxene Studios, which was a great experience. Chris Born, the recording and mixing engineer has a great set up there and the vibe was very relaxed but professional. I am looking forward to recording there again.

The title of the album is ‘iimini’, can you share with us what this means and why you chose it?

It is partly named after my childhood obsession, the soap opera “ Days of our Lives”. I think I took a lot of my ideas on what an ideal relationship is. iimini means days. It’s the memories and the time spent together in that relationship I mentioned before. Also, the songs had a theme of time and memories so the idea of the ‘days’ came to identify the different songs. 
You have shared that the album is a story of love from the first meeting to the heartbreaking end. What inspired this storyline?

I thought it would be powerful to share the rise and fall of love. I had seen that before in couples, people who were inseparable and are now distant strangers. The binary of being alone to being in a relationship is what this album tries to display – unity vs being alone, love and hate, and the past vs the present. 

Evidently, you (like many) are a fan of love. Tell us about what this emotion means to you and how you connected this to your work?

Growing up I had to deal with a lot of rejection. I had a craving and a deep need for love. I think that’s what makes the album so relatable – it could be anyone’s story. It explores the many feelings that come with being in love including intimacy as well as the rejection. 

The album has a mixture of beautiful sounds and tones; can you tell us about some of these sounds that you used across each song in the album?

In terms of sound, I need to give the credit to my friend and producer of the album Tiago Correia Paulo. He worked so hard on putting this album together with me, we did a lot of playing around with synths and just unconventional ways of making sounds like playing with filling bottles with water and using them as percussion, recording the rain during a thunderstorm, recording a group of drummers in Paris and getting audio clips of people talking in Joburg CBD. 

What would you like listeners to take away from the album? 

I want them to remember the beauty and importance of love. I think in a world that hardly ever looks inwards, love is still the most magical thing about life. I want listeners to debate about what real love is for them and what it is that moves them. I also want them to relate and connect to my own feelings of loneliness and realise it is a shared experience. 

How would you say the songs on this album differ from some of your previous work?

This album is much more experimental. What we wanted to create was something very artistic and forward-thinking. 

Lastly, which song from the album is your favourite and why?

Bambelela would have to be my favourite. It is written about loving someone in a really deep way but constantly fighting with them. It’s about family and staying together through the odds. It’s about second chances and forgiveness. I love this song because it goes beyond the romantic narrative of the album – it could be about anyone you have ever loved. 

Listen to the album and read 10and5 writer, Luvo Mahlangu’s review here.

Image Credit: Lidudumalingani and Justice Mukheli.

Between 10 and 5